Hillsborough disaster: Any hope of justice was lost that day, says Smith Of The Star

Hillsborough Disaster: The memorial to the 96 Liverpool fans that lost their lives in the tragedy.
Hillsborough Disaster: The memorial to the 96 Liverpool fans that lost their lives in the tragedy.
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PAUL Clark, aged 18, Gary Collins 22, Tracey Elizabeth Cox 23. Outside of their families and friends these names will be largely unknown, writes The Star’s Martin Smith.

But their lives and the lives of 93 others who went to a football match on a perfect spring day in 1989 and never went home are worth less than one copper’s reputation.

Who says so?

South Yorkshire Police said so when Peter Wright, then Chief Constable, one of the most senior law enforcement officers in the country, told his men to change their written notes of what happened that day.

Out went their doubts, their complaints and the reservations about procedures and the way those officers were led at Hillsborough stadium on April 15, 1989.

And out went truth and any hope of justice for those who lost everything that day.

The arrogance and contempt of that act is staggering.

The changing of statements made by serving officers and paramedics has given South Yorkshire Police a reputation that it may never shake off.

Consider the scale of the alterations made to police documents.

164 police statements altered, 116 of them to remove or alter “unfavourable” comments about the policing of the match and the unfolding disaster.

Twenty-three officers had references to ‘chaos’, ‘fear’, ‘panic’ and ‘confusion’ altered or deleted from their original recollections.

Guidance to officers on how to complete their accounts said that no criticisms should be levelled at anyone and that there should be no mention of the word ‘chaotic’ or any impression that complete control had been lost at the ground.

Now everyone wants to apologise.

The current Chief Constable David Crompton, Sheffield Wednesday, The City Council and the Sun Editor who was lied to by senior policeman.

Everyone who has been silent for 23 years now wants to come clean and admit their failings.

For millions of people in Liverpool, Sheffield and across the country, those apologies will ring pretty hollow today.

Without the unfailing efforts and determination of the Hillsborough victims’ families all this would have remained under Peter Wright’s stinking carpet and been buried with him last year.

That shames this city and the honest men and women who worked for our police force and ambulance service then and now.

Yesterday’s deluge will not be the end of it, rather the beginning of a new chapter.

Private lawsuits will be filed, criminal prosecutions taken out, millions of pounds in compensation will need to be found from somewhere.

The current Chief Constable assures us that in these days of tweets, mobile phones and instant communication things would have happened differently if similar events occurred today.

That’s true.

But back in 1989 that was the modern world, too.

We are not talking about ancient history.

We didn’t believe then, it’s scarcely believable now, that corruption could exist on such a scale within our police force.

We didn’t believe that Peter Wright and his officers, with Tory MP Irvine Patnick, could stoop so low as to brief journalists that drunken, ticketless fans and violence were to blame for the deaths of the 96 when there was no evidence that any of those things occurred.

The inquiry panel were given a standing ovation in Liverpool Cathedral yesterday.

The families and friends of Paul Clark, Gary Collins, Tracey Elizabeth Cox and the 93 other Hillsborough victims will hopefully find some relief in the clearing of their names and the damning of Wright and those who colluded with him.

The truth hurts and right now Sheffield and South Yorkshire is feeling the pain.

But our anxiety is as nothing to the agony of those who have had to live with those disgraceful lies for the last 23 years.

Hillsborough disaster cover up findings at a glace - CLICK HERE