On April 15, 1989 I was sitting in the North Stand at Hillsborough with a perfect view of the Leppings Lane end. Along with 40,000-odd other people I witnessed what has now been described as the biggest cover up in modern British history. How can you cover up something which is witnessed by over 40,000 people?
As a 19-year-old, I returned to college after the spring break to read and watch reports of events which I knew to be false. It was not just The Sun. False reports were published by the BBC and ITN, by The Guardian and The Times. By every source of news.
What the Hillsborough Panel has revealed is a widespread almost industrial scale process of corrupting the witness evidence of all those who worked for the police and ambulance service combined with a PR campaign by every public body involved from the Police Federation to the FA and including the Government. All designed to promote this false story.
While I waited for what I presumed would be a call for witness evidence, the Taylor Report and inquests progressed without reference to the non-establishment witnesses and upon the basis of the corrupted evidence of establishment witnesses. The false version of events became the official version. But 40,000 people knew it was false. And most of us were Scousers.
When Labour came to power on a wave of optimism in 1997, they promised a review of what these “underground” witnesses claimed was a false version of events. Instead, Jack Straw appointed Stuart-Smith LJ, well known as Britain’s most right-wing judge. On the first day of his review, he greeted the families of the deceased with the welcome: “Have you got a few of your people or are they like the Liverpool fans, turning up at the last minute.”
Not only were they not late, he had greeted them with one of the very blood libels which they sought to overturn. His review confirmed the libels as truth.
But over 40,000 people knew it was a lie and they all told their friends, many of whom were Scousers. The Justice Campaign was born by word of mouth and passed by person to person. My witness statement is one of many on the Hillsborough Justice Campaign’s website. This is hosted on a website in Holland as threats of injunctions by the Police Federation prevent its publication in this country.
The Hillsborough Panel has not reported the truth. The panel has reported the version of events as originally told by the establishment witnesses. A brief review of the list of personnel whose statements and documents formed part of the review reveal little or no testimony of non-establishment witnesses. The truth of the extent of the actions to block the escape of fans and to block the medical treatment of fans remains untold by the courts and the media. But it remains known by more than 40,000 people and continues to be told by word of mouth.
There is still some way to go before the true story of Hillsborough becomes a common and accepted narrative. But there are too many witnesses for it not to happen in time.
My statement of from the Hillsborough Justice Campaign website reads as follows:
On 15 April 1989 1 attended the Liverpool v Notts Forest game at Hillsborough with my Brother and his friend Peter. We arrived in Sheffield at about 13:30, and got into the ground relatively early, I think approximately
We had seats in the main stand to the left of the Leppings Lane End. Our seats were about half way up the stand and about half way between the Leppings Lane end and the halfway line. Accordingly, we had a very clear view of events.
I could clearly see that the middle section of the Leppings Lane End was overfull with people and the side sections were empty. It was clear at that stage that action was needed to move people to the side sections. I discussed this at the time with my Brother who was sat next to me and Pete. It was also a general topic of conversation all around us and it was very clear to everyone. I have been attending football matches regularly since I was six and am well aware of how a full standing section looks and it was clear that the middle section of the Leppings Lane End was overfull. Sat around us were many people who we recognised from regular attendance at Anfield’s main stand. They would also have been well aware of how full the End should havelooked.
It was already clear that people were injured. A boy of aged about 15 years was wondering alongside the touchline before the game started. His arm was broken at right angles both below and above his elbow forming a Z shape. He reached the halfway line before stewards led him away.
Fans were trying to climb out of the middle section of the End over the front railings and over the sides and fans from the stand above were pulling people up from the back. This was occurring in large numbers, not just the occasional person.
Policemen were standing by the railings trying to prevent people from climbing over. I could clearly see that they were pushing people back into the stand. Even from where I was sitting, you could see that many people were in a lot of difficulty.
“When the game was stopped by the referee, the Police had by then realised that many people were injured and stopped trying to push people back into the stands. However, they did not appear to be doing anything to help. Their main actions were aimed at shoving people off the pitch and preventing anyone from progressing down the pitch.
As time passed, the numbers of fans on the pitch increased and the number of injured people increased. Before I left the ground, I witnessed the following actions by the police:
Attempts to prevent fans from removing the goal structure. This was necessary because injured fans were falling on top of other injured fans as they escaped the Leppings Lane End. I could see that it was impossible to treat anyone because the space between the goal and the railings was very confined. Eventually, the sheer number of fans overwhelmed the few police present and the goal was removed and placed out of the way by the fans.
When the gate at the front of the Leppings Lane end was eventually opened, the Police forced the gate closed in the faces of the fans after what seemed like only a few moments. Presumably because they considered too many people were on the pitch.
The gate was later reopended and some policemen helped carrying fans out. However, the majority of the police had withdrawn to the halfway line, where they formed a security cordon. The vast majority of rescue and resuscitation attempts were made by fans who had escaped uninjured and fans who had left the main stands to assist. I saw very few police doing anything to assist.
When an ambulance finally arrived at the ground (which I think was about 15:20), it entered at the Notts Forest end through a gate slightly wider than a single ambulance. As the ambulance approached the gate, a policeman stepped in front of it and stopped it from progressing onto the pitch. We commented to each other that we could not believe that the police were still more concerned over protecting the grass than rescuing people.
Injured fans needed to be carried the length of the pitch to reach the ambulance and then squeezed down the gap between the sides of the ambulance and the gate. There appeared to be only 3 or 4 stretchers available. Fans started to dismantle an advertising hoarding to use as a stretcher. Several police ran across to stop them. Eventually, sheer weight of numbers of fans forced the police back. Many other fans then dismantled advertising hoardings and the ball boys also ran on to the pitch to do likewise.
As injured fans on advertising hoardings were being carried to the ambulances by other fans, they had to cross the police cordon on the halfway line. To start with, the police would stop each group to check (I don’t know what). We commented to each other that we could not believe that the police still appeared to think this was a crowd control exercise and that somehow the fans were faking taking someone to an ambulance so as to reach the Notts Forest end. I should add that by this time, I had counted at least 10 bodies covered in coats, with limp limbs hanging by their side. It was clear that these fans had died.
Later, the police tended to allow most stretchers past without stopping them. However, they would occasionally stop a group of fans and check.
I did not see more than a couple of police at actually helping injured fans. The few that did so stopped shortly after and withdrew to the half-way line security cordon.
Someone sat close to me had been counting the bodies that appeared to be dead. He was counting those bodies carried on stretchers or advertising hoardings where a coat or something similar had been draped over the body. By the time he had reached 42, we decided that we should leave. I noted that it was halftime as we left the ground.