“During Sykes’s evidence, it became clear not only that these stories were untrue…”

The indignity endured by the families of those killed at Hillsborough was not the core of the unimaginable tragedy itself, but how a quasi-official narrative of self-infliction became mainstream

The police claimed that the gate at the Leppings Lane had been forced open by fans; there were suggestions that typical hooliganism was to blame; the Prime Minister’s press advisor said events were caused by a ‘tanked-up mob’; and the Sun newspaper, to its enduring shame, under the headline THE TRUTH, claimed that fans had attacked rescue workers and stole from the bodies of the dead.

The police investigation that followed focused more on the behaviour of the fans – specifically on whether they had consumed alcohol – than on any other aspect. From the outset it looked like a cover-up. The lies and the slurs continued, even in the face of an official inquiry conducted by Lord Justice Taylor that pointed to widespread police failures and which exonerated the fans.

The Inquest made short work of some of the abiding untruths:

When challenged by Michael Mansfield QC, representing 77 families whose relatives died in the crush on the Leppings Lane terrace, Sykes accepted a police log from the night of the disaster showed none of the 10 bodies he was referring to had been stripped of possessions.

During Sykes’s evidence, it became clear not only that these stories were untrue, but that South Yorkshire police had the evidence all along that this was the case and yet had encouraged the stories and never corrected them. As a routine practice, its officers compiled lists of any money or other items found on people who had died. Mark George QC, representing 22 families, told Sykes that research of all the property logs showed nobody had “multiple wallets”. One person had a wallet and a separate small holder for his bank card. These deeply damaging stories, which had been maintained for a quarter of a century, crumbled in moments.

And from The Times and The Sun, who did more than their bit at the time to propagate that quasi-official narrative:


Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • The Awakening

    I C&P the following;

    “Burnham: Police force put itself ahead of Hillsborough victims’ families

    Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham has accused the South Yorkshire police force of “protecting itself” ahead of “those who suffered hurt and harm at Hillsborough” after an inquest finally delivered a finding of “unlawful killing” 27 years after the disaster.

    Speaking to ITV News as he questioned how it had taken so long to get answers to the tragedy he said: “We have a police force here that has consistently put protecting itself before protecting those who suffered hurt and harm at Hillsborough.”


    HOWEVER, we now have this;

    South Yorkshire Police Federation chairman claims force has changed since Hillsborough


    If that is so, that South Yorkshire Police have changed since Hillsborough,
    why has there been NO JUSTICE for Tony Farrell, the Principal Intelligence Analyst of South Yorkshire Police, who was sacked by South Yorkshire Police?

    The Appeal of Tony Farrell – Dismissed for his 7/7 advice


    Summation presented at the conclusion of Tony Farrell’s Employment Tribunal
    Friday 9th September 2011


  • Zorin001

    And it was still happening 15 – 20 years later, just take a look at the smearing of Jean Charles De Menizes after he was shot after 7/7, I still hear people referencing him jumping the gates at the tube station when the case is brought up; something which didn’t happen and was known not to have happened at the time that information was released.

    This was a great result for the families and anyone who believes in justice and full accountability in the Police and Government and I hope that it can be pushed on to charges being brought against those directly responsible.

  • Nevin

    We might join or support organisations to protect or represent our interests but those in control of the organisations will put the interests of the organisation ahead of its individual members. Sadly, we can’t always rely on inquests and similar structures to get to the truth.

  • chrisjones2

    It was the New World Order that done it !!!

  • Anglo-Irish

    As a resident of South Yorkshire and someone who had a job which entailed working closely with the police for 33 years I got to know many serving officers.

    Most of them were decent committed police officers who carried out their duties diligently and I was pleased to call a number of them friends.

    Having said that, it is obvious that there are serious faults which are endemic within the command structure of the force.

    The coordinated and intensive coverup had to be instigated by the senior command. The level of lying, falsification of facts and diversion of blame onto the victims was extraordinary and a number of senior officers had to be aware of what was happening.

    Couple this with what took place in Rotherham, where children were abused for years and although the police were aware of the situation they did next to nothing to protect them, and SYP has little reputation left.

    I saw the suggestion that the force be disbanded reformed and amalgamated with another force.

    That may well be the end result, but those responsible for allowing this state of affairs to occur need to be dealt with and reassurance given to the public that coverups by the authorities will be dealt with in the same way that illegality carried out by members of the public would be.

    The really nonsensical thing about both the Hillsborough disaster and the Bloody Sunday inquiries is that the original statements made by the authorities were accurate.

    Both Lord Justice Taylor and Major Hubert O’ Neill the Derry coroner identified those responsible at the first time of asking.

    Then the politicians got involved because they didn’t like the facts.

    And so for purely political reasons the victims families had justice delayed and multi-millions of public money was wasted.

    Still, the lawyers got rich.

  • The Awakening

    Thank you for your thought provoking post. Here are some more interesting articles;

    Freemasonry linked to ‘police cover-up’ of Hillsborough disaster that left 96 dead


    Did Freemasons influence police over Hillsborough?


    Collusion between Westminster, police & media sustained Hillsborough cover-up – Shadow Home Sec


    Police officer on duty at Hillsborough kept quiet for 27 years fearing she would be ‘thrown to the wolves’ by her superiors if she spoke out


    Sergeant bullied me into changing my account: Special Constable who cradled dying fan at Hillsborough tells of ‘major conspiracy’ to conceal the truth


    Just to add, that those of your friends in South Yorkshire Police that were bullied, those decent Police ARE victims as well. Now when those Police speak about the bullying, they will be listened to properly now. I urge you to get them to do so, it will help them.

  • Anglo-Irish

    To the best of my knowledge none of the officers I knew were bullied.

    There are over 2,500 police officers in the SYP and an equal number of support staff.

    The coverup conspiracy wasn’t carried out by all of them. A number of senior officers were behind it and some of the officers on duty that day were also.

    Many weren’t, but those of them that were witnesses were in an invidious position. When senior people are determined to cover their arses and when the government itself has made it plain that it doesn’t want the police service to take the blame how do you go about uncovering the conspiracy?

    Part of the deception was convincing other police officers in the force but not involved on the day that the drunken fans were to blame.

    Not that difficult at the time as trouble at football matches was a frequent feature.

    Don’t forget Hillsborough happened only four years after the Heysel disaster where 39 fans were killed by rioting Liverpool fans and English clubs were still banned from European competition.

    Fourteen Liverpool fans were convicted of manslaughter as a result of Heysel so they had a reputation and it wasn’t that difficult to lay the blame at their door.

    Originally I was inclined to believe that myself. I’m a football supporter and have witnessed aggression at matches on many occasions.

    Those police not directly involved wanted to believe that the force wasn’t culpable, and there is no doubt that a certain ‘ us against them ‘ attitude exists in all police forces.

    There was a campaign of spin and propaganda conducted by the press who fell for the misdirection and it is easy to see why most police officers believed what they did.

    A combination of bad management by the police, inadequate stadium construction and the presence of fencing installed because of the history of trouble led to the disaster.

    The police are mainly to blame because they were perfectly aware of the circumstances which existed and that is why they were there.

    They failed to provide the protection to the public that they were employed for and have to take the consequences.

    Had they held their hand up immediately then taking into consideration the other factors which made their job so difficult there would have been a certain amount of sympathy.

    None of us are perfect, we all make mistakes and the police are not supermen/women the public would have understood however unhappy about the outcome.

    But the conspiracy, coverup, lies and attempts to blame the victims are unforgivable.

    Trust has been broken and it’s difficult to see how it can be recovered.