At last, the truth is out

Liverpool fans trying to escape severe overcrowding during the FA Cup semi-final football match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough.
Liverpool fans trying to escape severe overcrowding during the FA Cup semi-final football match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough.
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You don’t go to a football match and think you might never come back. And you don’t wait 23 years for an apology either.

For Paula Tester, of Fleetwood, the memories of Hillsborough are as raw as ever.

The damning indictment of South Yorkshire Police finally laid bare yesterday won’t “make the pain go away”, she says.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s “profound” apology to the families of those who died “has come too late,” Paula adds.

“And it won’t help me .. and I walked away ... how it can it help those who lost family and friends?”

Hillsborough is a name redefined by tragedy.

Ninety-six Liverpool supporters died in the crush at Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium on April 15, 1989, where their team met Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final.

The independent Hillsborough report makes it clear “the Liverpool fans were not the cause of the disaster”.

It added police and emergency services made “strenuous attempts” to deflect blame on to innocent fans.

They also doctored the documents to “remove or alter unfavourable comments” about the policing of the match and the unfolding disaster.

Today the guilt undoubtedly weighs heavily on the conscience of those involved – the police who blamed fans, the politicians who closed ranks behind them, the sleazy tabloids who tainted reputations forever by taunting dead and living alike.

Mr Cameron says the Hillsborough families suffered a “double injustice”, both in the “failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth”, and in the efforts to denigrate the deceased and suggest that they were “somehow at fault for their own deaths”.

He told MPs: “With the weight of the new evidence in this report, it is right for me today, as Prime Minister, to make a proper apology to the families of the 96 for all they have suffered.

“On behalf of the Government – and indeed our country – I am profoundly sorry.”

The premier has asked Attorney General Dominic Grieve to review the report and decide whether to apply to the High Court to quash the original, inquest, which returned a verdict of “accidental death” and order a new one.

But Paula, who was in the Leppings Lane crowd that day, says she will “never ever have closure on Hillsborough”.

She explains: “I still dwell on what happened at Hillsborough a fair bit. I’ve been to the services at the grounds. It’s still saddening.

“You can’t go through something like that, and not have it mark you for the rest of your life.

“There was a cover-up. I think that’s shameful. We all knew it. But why we have had to wait till now to find out what went on is disgusting.

“Lives could have been saved that day. I still maintain they could have sorted it.”

Paula travelled with friends from Fleetwood in a hire van on that fateful day. All returned.

“It was such a contrast with the outward journey.

“We were quiet, sombre, thankful to be alive, but horrified by what we had seen.”

Paula was in the crush a behind the goal of Bruce Grobbelaar. “Some of my mates had seats, some were standing.

“I was right behind the net. I don’t know how I got out. Someone grabbed me. I’ve no idea who to this day but they saved my life.

“I was being crushed, and next minute I was stood on the pitch watching people die right in front of me.

“What happened that day wasn’t down to the fans. We’ve known it all along ... now the world knows it.”

“What happened that day – and since – was wrong.

“It was wrong the responsible authorities knew Hillsborough did not meet minimum safety standards, and yet still allowed the match to go ahead.

“It was wrong the families have had to wait for so long – and fight so hard – to get to the truth.

“And it was wrong the police changed the records of what happened and tried to blame the fans.

“We ask the police to do difficult and often very dangerous things on our behalf, and South Yorkshire Police is a very different organisation today from what it was then.

“But we do the many, many honourable police men and women a great disservice if we try to defend the indefensible.”

David Cameron

“This is a complete exoneration of maligned Liverpool fans, and confirms what we all have really known deep down for the past 23 years.

“We have waited far too long for this day of revelation but at last light has been shone into the darkness.

“My heart goes out to all the families of the bereaved and I hope the findings will help ease their pain.”

Local MEP Paul Nuttall, who was in the Leppings Lane end at Hillsborough as the tragedy unfolded