by Bob Lethaby
I felt really ashamed of myself today, not for the first time in my life but probably more ashamed than I have ever been before. That is because I am a football fan who has surged down the terraces in delight at a goal, because I am a football fan who has felt the fear of being crushed in a rush and because I am a football fan who experienced the caged in life of the 1980′s terraces; treated like an animal by adrenalin fuelled police intent on treating us all like the scum of the earth, prodding us with batons and goading us with derogatory remarks.
I feel guilty because I believed that Liverpool fans were to blame, at least in part, for the death of 96 people on the terraces of Hillsborough, I feel guilty that the words of corrupt police, bent politicians and utter pond life like Kelvin McKenzie somehow managed to convince me for twenty-three years that at least some of the blame for the death of innocent people lay at the feet of Liverpool supporters themselves. As someone who tries to live his life with some sort of social conscience, shame on me for doubting football supporters instead of being suspicious of the widescale corruption in Thatcher’s society.
The level of corruption around the Hillsborough disaster makes me sick to the core. There was tampering with hundreds of witness statements, accusations of urination and theft on dead supporters and worse than anything, the refusal by police to open gates to people who were clearly dying in front of their eyes. Interviewed on the radio today, Bruce Grobbelaar, the former Liverpool goalkeeper, said that he can still hear the voice of a fan saying “Please help, they are trying to kill us” as he perished and another guy, a survivor, told of how a policemen refused to open the gate to release the crush.
It is worth remembering that this was at the height of football violence and it may have been the case that the police got it all tragically wrong, but to go in to systematic denial and whitewash the death of 96 people to save careers and reputations is the most hideous crime of all. From the ground floor of policing right through to the highest powers of law, the government and the press, there was a mass cover up that after the glory of the London Olympics, should make us all ashamed to be British.
It is quite possible that the police on duty that day were told to shut up and cover up or lose their careers but I can say from the bottom of my heart that I could not do that, my conscience couldn’t take it, so I won’t feel sorry for anyone who collaborated in such a disgusting way. The treatment of the dead and their families is vile beyond comprehension. As for Kelvin McKenzie, the despicable loud mouth cretin who published “Hillsborough: The Truth” in The Sun, I hope he rots in Hell. He has come out with a pathetic apology today, you can forget that, he was told by a suspicious colleague at the time not to go ahead with the story as it was surrounded with suspicion, but he did it anyway. Every time that prick comes on Question Time I have to refrain from smashing the TV in…..I hate him even more now.
If there is one heartwarming story from all this, it is that if a parent loses a child and there is a sniff of injustice, that parent is a formidable force who will not stop in their quest for the truth. Tonight, if nothing else, these relatives may at least be able to sleep at last after exposing the despicable people who attempted to smear the victims of this tragedy to save their own careers and reputations. In my book of morals it is impossible to stoop to a lower level than that.
As one campaigner said tonight:
“At least the whole world now know what we have known for 23 years”
As friend of mine said tonight: “The authorities needed a cover up and blaming drunken scousers was a far more credible option to believe than a suspicion of corruption on this scale”
After the way my friends and I were treated by the police at 1980′s football matches, I really should have known better.
RIP the 96.