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Legacy of Betrayal

Police blamed Liverpool fans for a deadly tragedy, but new findings say otherwise

British prime minister David Cameron stood in a quiet House of Commons on Sept. 12 and apologized to the families of the 96 Liverpool soccer fans who died in the Hillsborough Stadium disaster on April 15, 1989. The fans were crushed to death at an FA Cup semifinal in Sheffield when some 3,000 visiting Liverpool supporters crowded onto standing-room terraces that were designed to hold about half that many people. The official investigation into the incident, conducted by South Yorkshire Police, had placed a large portion of the blame on the fans for being ticketless, overly intoxicated and violent. But those findings had been protested by the victims' families for 23 years, and a new inquiry panel, established in December 2009 by the British home secretary, reversed those conclusions last week, citing a massive police cover-up.

The report concluded that the police had changed 116 witness statements from previous inquiries to remove information damaging to the police and that officials had attempted to discredit victims by digging up negative information from a police database. The new findings open the door to more government inquests. That, perhaps, could lead to prosecution of the police officers involved in the investigation and cover-up, as well as to financial compensation for the victims' families.

The Hillsborough disaster led to significant changes in English soccer stadiums—including standing-room terraces being banned in top-flight football, making it much safer to attend games. As for last week's apology, nothing can bring back those eight dozen fans, but Cameron's admission is a positive development toward justice for the 96.



DELAYED BUT NOT DENIED Twenty-three years after the disaster that killed 96 Reds fans, a new report shifts blame to the police.