It has taken 22 years of frustration and lying but we might just be getting justice for the 96 who died at Hillsborough on Saturday afternoon 15th April, 1989.
I am on The Kop at Anfield for the annual memorial service to the memory of that tragedy at the Lepping Lane End at Hillsbourough, home of Sheffield Wednesday a generation ago.
You can read www.ronsblog.com on April 15, 2008 and April 15, 2009. 20 years after Hillsborough over 35,000 fans filled most of 4 sides of the stadium. Today there were half that number or less filling The Kop, and I was one of them.
The official report by Lord Justice Taylor did not get to the bottom of the tragedy because there was a cover up by the South Yorkshire police. The Sheffield coroner Stefan Popper said it was accidental death and limited his scope to 3.15pm when some of the victims were still breathing but response was slow and only one ambulance was allowed on the pitch.
The familes brought a private procecution against Duckenfield at Leeds Crown Court, but it failed when he claimed illness and the trial was stopped. 22 police on duty at Hillsborough retired with full pensions after the tragedy, and promptly got new well paid jobs. The familes got NOTHING.!!
The match was stopped at 3.06 after the crushed spectators were he#anded over the fence to be put on the grass. Sheffield Wednesday FC were culpable, Sheffield council were culpable and so was South Yorkshire police, under Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, who lied under oath. From NYC to South Yorkshire to London we know that the police look after their own, take too much annual leave and.... well, I could go on.
South Yorkshire police chief Meredydd Hughes two years ago promised to release all the thousands of documents that the force held. Then Minister of Sport Andy Burnham kept his word after speaking at the 2009 service that the government would form a special committee. He was booed by the fans that afternoon but kept his word. He is also a 'scouser' but supports Everton, and that same day he was at Villa Park where his club beat Ipswich Town in the other semi-final.
Liverpool won the re-arranged semi-final with Nottingham Forrest and went on to beat Everton in the F.A. Cup Final at Wembley 3-2 in extra time, but who cares.
Under Bishop Brian Jones of Liverpool, a year after being appointed to head this committee, much work has been done. It's an independent panel formed to collate, publish and make sense of the paper trail. He wants the FULL truth from the 60 agencies involved. He is bringing new documents to light, and keeping the families informed. Who removed the CCTV tapes from the locked control room at Hillsborough the next day, and who was responsible for altering police witness statements, that can be forensically proved? What did police chief Peter Wright say to Margaret Thatcher the Prime Minister, when she visited Sheffield the following day?
Before the service I mingled with fans in The Albert, a pub at the corner of the Kop, where the ceiling and walls are covered with photos and of scarves from clubs world wide. I also visited the Hillsborough Memorial at the other end of the stadium, next to The Shankly Gates where fans had laid, flowers, photos and tributes.
King of the Kop Kenny Daglish, Liverpool's manager in 1989 and once again in charge, led the players from the first team and all the youth squads to their places on the Kop as The Love and Joy Gospel Choir choir sang and local reverends led hymns and prayers. We all finished, with tears in our eyes, singing the Kop anthem, YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE.
Former Manager Rafa Benitez was also there, still respected, and twice the fans chanted his name and they also chanted JUSTICE FOR THE 96. We hope so, and SOON.