21 years ago today, thousands of fans flocked to see the FA cup semi final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
That day, 96 fans died as a result of Police incompetence.
This is the story of the lies, the cover ups, the smears and the lack of accountability.
In 1989 football stadia in England (and across the UK and Europe) were terraced, with steel barriers across the terraces, and steel fences at the
front to prevent fans running onto the pitch.
The steel barriers were in place to prevent crushing, and to prevent fans surging forwards.
In England, FA Cup semi finals are played at neutral venues.
In 1989, Hillsborough, the home of Sheffield WednesdayFC had been chosen as the neutral venue for the match, despite its poor safety record which had
seen incidents of crushing (Leppings Lane end) and had subsequently not been chosen for some years prior to that fatefull day.
The Build Up.
Fans had been segregated, as was and is the usual practice, with Forest being allocated the "Spion Kop" end of the ground, and Liverpool supporters
in the "Leppings Lane" end.
The Leppings Lane end held only 14,600, and the Spion Kop 21,000, despite Liverpool having vastly more supporters than Forest.
As usual, the match was to kcik off at 3pm, and supporters were advised to be in the ground 15 minutes prior to kick off.
It was reported that Liverpool supporters had been delayed on the way to the ground, and as a result of this, large numbers arrived between 2:30 and
2:40 leading to a build up of fans outside the ground, creating a bottleneck.
With kick off fast approaching, as many fans as possible were being herded through the turnstiles, which lead to the first fatal error.
Police policy on match days was to direct the crowd into the "pens". As the first pen became full, Police failed to send fans to the wing pens which
were still half empty.
Instead, they allowed the crowd to pour into the central pen which was already full.
As pressure built up outside the stadium, the second fatal mistake was made.
The senior police officer outside the ground, ordered that the main gate (gate C) be opened - the main gate is opened after a match to allow fans to
At least two thousand fans came through the gate and headed straight for the central pen with no police co-ordinating the fans or herding them
into the empty area's in the wings.
The pressure built and built, as fans poured down the central pen concourse (a steep ramp) to take their places before kick off.
As a result of this pressure, fans at the front of the stand were crushed - but nobody noticed for many crucial minutes.
At 3:06 the referee, on the advice of the Police stopped the match after fans had started to climb the front steel barrier to escape the crush. Fans
in the upper stand helped others climb to safety as finally, the front steel barrier collapsed under the pressure of thousands of fans.
The pens were so packed, that many fans died standing up, asphyxiated by the crush.
Others made their way onto the pitch, gasping for breath and carrying the bodies of the dead as the tragedy began to fully unfold.
Fans ripped up advertising boards to use as makeshift stretchers and performed CPR on the unconcious and dying fellow supporters as the Police
commander in charge froze and failed to order ambulances onto the pitch to help those in need.
Instead, he ordered a cordon of police officers three quarters down the pitch to prevent contact with rival supporters in the Spion Kop.
Liverpool fans attempted to break through the cordon to get through to the 44 waiting ambulances which had been turned back from entering the stadium
to help the injured and dying, but these fans were turned back as well, with Police oblivious to the screams and pleas of the injured.
Just one ambulance got through during this crucial time, and no firefighting teams with cutting gear were allowed in at all.
Of the 96 fans who died, just 14 were taken to hospital.
It later came to light that although the official capacity of the central pens was 2,200, this should have been reduced to 1,600 as crush barriers
installed three years earlier did not meet official safety standards.
It was estimated that over 3,00 fans had entered the pens - almost twice the "safe" capacity. Slideshow, showing bottlenecks and entrances
The Aftermath, The Lies, The Smears and The Cover Ups.
Police first reported that large numbers of ticketless fans had stormed the ground, and had forced the main gate (gate C) but BBC cameras at the
ground showed this to be a lie.
Perhaps most importantly, on the evening of the tragedy, 2 CCTV tapes were "stolen" from the offices in the ground - CCTV which showed in great
detail what had transpired on that fatefull day.
Many Police officers on duty that day reported that they were told by senior officers to re-write their reports into the events that unfolded, to fit
in with the cover up.
Politicians spoke to national newspapers to smear the Liverpool fans, accusing them of robbing the dead, and of urinating on their bodies - there are
thousands of photographs and hours of footage which show that nothing like this took place.
The then home secretary said that many police officers had been injured trying to stop the "riot" (as it was first reported) but when pressed could
not name a single officer - no police officers were hurt as a result of crowd violence.
The authorities tried to lay the blame for this tragedy at the door of the fans - but CCTV, photographic and video evidence showed that it was all
In fact, were it not for the actions of the fans, more people would have died that day.
During the coroners hearing, Dr Stefan Popper (the coroner) determined that 3:15 was the cut off point for any evidence to be submitted - in other
words, no evidence of events after 3:15 would be admissable in the inquest proceedings, as the victims had "already received their fatal injuries
before that time"
This was despite many witness reports which stated that people were alive after that time, and the fact that ambulances and paramedics waiting outside
the stadium to be allowed entry could possibly have saved more people.
The Taylor Report.
Lord Justice Taylor wrote an interim report on 4th August 1989 which laid the blame squarely at the door of the police authority in charge of match
day crowd control.
Some of his strongest words were reserved for the police commander, Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, for "failing to take effective
control", and South Yorkshire police, who attempted to blame supporters for the crush by arriving at the ground "late and drunk".
Despite the Taylor report, which was also critical of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club and Sheffield City Council, on 14 August 1990 the director of
public prosecutions decided not to bring criminal charges against any individual, group or body on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
Inquests into the deaths of the victims returned a majority verdict of accidental death, but many families did not accept this and began to campaign
for a fresh inquiry.
The Fight For Justice
No-one has ever been properly charged or prosecuted for the events that happened that day.
Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield was allowed to retire on "health grounds" so that he would not have to face charges from his own force, the
South Yorkshire Police.
Meanwhile the relatives of the victims continue to fight for justice.
It's not about retribution, it's about finding out what happened to their loved ones in their final moments and finding peace and solace.
It's about truth and justice. and learning who was to blame and why.
Of course people already know this, but it is not and has never been official - although the Taylor report laid the blame for all that happened at the
door of the police, many questions remain unanswered, not least of which is what happened after 3:15 and the original police reports which were
However, there may be light at the end of the tunnel - after much pressure the government last year agreed to release all of the documents pertaining
to the tragedy, including all documents from the South Yorkshire police.
The government has invited a panel to review the documents, and go forwards from there with the results of the findings. www.guardian.co.uk...
The full truth may never be known, and no-one may ever be truly held accountable for the tragic events of that day, but the families of the victims
need and deserve the truth.
Exactly right the police got away with murder that day, and like you said no one paid. The police do what ever they want to anyone, and its like a
license to kill being in the force, and no one is accountable to anyone.
I still remember our school assembly after they read all the names out, even though we where in london.
What it must of been like to be swashed like that is unimaginable i would think, and the police stood by. Sad day, for any footie fan, and how manu
fans even comprehend slagging of liverpool fans and laughing about this is beyond me.
People are just sick.
But nice thread and well put together, so that people can see.
Just remember the sun newspaper after the incident.
The vision of those poor folks crushed against those steel grates made me physically sick. That was one of many time I have seen something like that
happen. Once here in the US at a rock concert, once at the opening of a Walmart here during the Christmas sale. It's one of the reasons I have
stopped going anywhere there might be a crowd.
I remember as a child in fifth grade playing the game 'Whip'. I ended up on the bottom of the pile and passed out from the crush of 20+ bodies on
top of me. I woke up in the hospital with broken ribs.
I wish this never to happen again to others...but I doubt that will come true!
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