Friday 17 January 2020

Liverpool's 'drunk fans' wrongly blamed for Hillsborough

Nigel Morris in London

RELATIVES of Liverpool supporters killed in the Hillsborough disaster reacted angrily last night after leaked Whitehall papers disclosed that Merseyside police wrongly blamed the tragedy on drunken fans at the time.

Confidential documents relating to the tragedy -- in which 96 supporters were killed when the crowd surged forward before an FA Cup semi-final in 1989 -- were not due to be released until the autumn.

But papers obtained by the BBC yesterday revealed that former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was told by a senior Merseyside officer that drunken fans caused the crush.

There was anger in Liverpool after the tragedy that South Yorkshire Police had blamed supporters. But the papers show that officers in Merseyside shared their colleagues' opinion -- and relayed it to Downing Street.

Four days after the disaster, a member of the Downing Street policy unit met senior Merseyside officers.

According to a note of the meeting, an unnamed officer blamed the supporters for the chaos, likening it to the Heysel stadium disaster in 1985 in which 39 Juventus fans died after being charged by Liverpool supporters.

Ashamed

It said: "One officer, born and bred in Liverpool, said he was deeply ashamed to say that it was drunken Liverpool fans who had caused this disaster, just as they had . . . at Heysel."

According to the note, Kenneth Oxford, who was Merseyside Chief Constable at the time, said: "A key factor in causing the disaster was the fact that large numbers of Liverpool fans had turned up without tickets."

The note is initialled 'MT', suggesting it was read by Mrs Thatcher, and the phrase "drunken Liverpool fans" had been underlined.

Sheila Coleman of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, said: "Those of us who were around Liverpool in the 1980s are well aware of Ken Oxford's racist and bigoted views. Presumably, he recruited senior officers with a similar mindset." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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