15/03/2012

'Drunken Fans' Blamed For Hillsborough Tragedy

Confidential government documents have revealed a senior Merseyside police officer blamed "drunken Liverpool fans" for causing the Hillsborough disaster.

The BBC has seen leaked briefings sent to former PM Margaret Thatcher about Britain's worst sports tragedy.

The official inquiry said the disaster, in which ninety-six football fans died after a crush on overcrowded terraces during an FA Cup Semi Final in April 1989, was caused by the failure in crowd control by South Yorkshire Police.

Despite calls by the families of those who died for the release of secret government and police papers relating to the disaster, letters to and from 10 Downing Street and cabinet minutes that show what Thatcher was discussing and being told behind the scenes have been made public for the first time by BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel, which was set up in 2009, is currently reviewing hundreds of documents relating to the tragedy, but they are not expected to be made public until later this year.

Among the papers the BBC have seen the most controversial relates to the views of some senior Merseyside Police officers contained in a letter sent to the prime minister from a member of her policy unit in Downing Street.

In the letter, the Merseyside chief constable said: "A key factor in causing the disaster was the fact that large numbers of Liverpool fans had turned up without tickets.

"This was getting lost sight of in attempts to blame the police, the football authorities, etc."

Thatcher, prime minister at the time, was informed that a senior member of the Merseyside Police directly blamed supporters: "One officer, born and bred in Liverpool, said that he was deeply ashamed to say that it was drunken Liverpool fans who had caused this disaster, just as they had caused the deaths at Heysel."

The Heysel incident mentioned happened in 1985 before the European Cup Final when rioting Liverppol fans charged Juventus fan, 39 supporters died and hundreds were injured.

The document goes on to show more of the unnamed senior officers views: "He deplored the press's morbid concentration on pictures of bodies. He was also uneasy about the way in which Anfield was being turned into a shrine."

Much more information is expected to come to light on the tragedy in the coming months leading up to the official publication.

(H)


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