LIVERPOOL fans were not to blame for the Hillsborough disaster which claimed 96 lives an independent report conclusively confirmed yesterday.
The Hillsborough Independent’s Panel report also dramatically revealed up to 41 fans’ lives could have been saved had emergency services reacted properly on April 15, 1989.
The report unveiled the full extent of the cover-up which followed the disaster – and the bid to smear the reputations of the fans who died through Police National Computer checks and alcohol breath tests.
Prime Minister David Cameron issued a “profound” apology to the families of the 96 people who died, telling the House of Commons that it was clear “the Liverpool fans were not the cause of the disaster”.
Families who lost loved ones on that fateful day in the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough said the report vindicated their 23 year fight for justice, which now starts “a new journey.”
Lord Falconer QC, who is representing families, said it was now “absolutely obvious” the inquests of those who lost their lives should be re-opened.
Michael Mansfield QC described the cover-up that had taken place as the “biggest in British legal history”.
The Panel, chaired by Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, revealed its report at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. It examined more than 400,000 documents relating to the disaster before releasing its 395-page report.
It concludes that the evidence shows conclusively that “Liverpool fans neither caused nor contributed to the deaths of the 96 men, women and children”.
The report stated: “A swifter, more appropriate, better focused and properly-equipped response had the potential to save lives.”
The report lifts the lid on the involvement of former Merseyside Police Chief Constable Norman Bettison (appointed in 1998), at the time a senior officer in South Yorkshire, in a damage limitation exercise to the critical Taylor report into Hillsborough.
Minutes of a meeting with the South Yorkshire Police Federation showed he told the gathering of the places in the report where police were praised: “You have the opportunity to present more balance to the report.”
Mr Bettison is now Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police.
Trevor Hicks, president of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said: “If he is anything of a man he should resign and scurry up a drainpipe.”
West Yorkshire Police refused to answer questions on Mr Bettison’s behalf yesterday.
The documents unearth flaws in responding to the emerging crisis were “rooted in the institutional tension” between South Yorkshire Police (SYP) and Sheffield Wednesday.
Ground modifications after a 1981 crushing at Hillsborough increased dangers at the Leppings Lane end of the stadium.
Police were concerned with crowd management, but Sheffield Wednesday FC’s primary concern was to limit costs.
Documents disclosed reveal the original pathologists’ evidence of an “unvarying pattern of death is unsustainable”.