Not sure if this has already been shared on these boards today but it was brought to my attention by a Tony Barrett tweet as he described it as 'Simply stunning' and I can only agree.
Pleasure to share this as my 10,000th post.
Adrian Tempany was at Hillsborough in 1989. Last week he was in Warrington to see the inquest jury deliver its verdict, and a community’s struggle against injustice finally win out By Adrian Tempany @AdrianTempany
Sunday 1 May 2016
After 27 years, justice came in a few short moments. At just after 11am last Tuesday, Sir John Goldring took his seat in a specially converted courtroom in Warrington, to silence. There was no preamble from the coroner today; not even a perfunctory greeting. As the microphone sputtered to life, the most controversial inquests in British history were about to come to an end. After two years, and nearly 300 days of evidence, from almost 1,000 witnesses, everything would rest on 14 questions – and on six women and three men from Warrington. The jury had given up two years of their lives to resolve this most bitter of disputes. Now, they were restricted to uttering a few simple words in response to the coroner. “Yes,” “No,” or “It is”. But with those four words, they would rewrite history.
A few hundred yards from court, across the Birchwood industrial park, in building 401, I was one of 200 people – survivors, the bereaved, and other campaigners – who filed into an annexe to watch a stream of the verdict, broadcast live. As we waited, quietly, a member of the inquest secretariat arrived to inform us that the annexe was technically a part of the courtroom itself: we should therefore show no emotion as the jury’s determinations were announced. We ask you to be quiet and dignified, she said. A few seats along from me, Damian Kavanagh, a friend and fellow survivor, muttered: “We’ve been dignified for 27 years.”
Eventually, the camera wobbled into focus, and the face of Sir John Goldring appeared. Unseen, off camera, the forewoman confirmed that the jury had arrived at its determinations to all 14 questions. Within moments, the debate over Hillsborough would be settled, once and for all. Here it was, in front of us on a TV screen – justice, finally. Like an intravenous drip – delivered drop by drop.
I was 19 when I went to Hillsborough, to watch my team play an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest. A man, but in many respects still a boy; crushed to the brink of death behind the steel-mesh fence of pen 3. Many of the 96 died within feet of me. I survived, but, unable to move any part of my body from the neck down in the crush, I could do no more for these people than watch them die. I owed it to them to witness their final moments, to bear testimony; but I never thought I would live to see this day.
I am sitting with my girlfriend, Deb, who was my girlfriend that day, and has seen me through years of anxiety, and anger. In the seats beside and in front of me are other survivors. Damian survived the crush in pen 4, aged 20. He had obtained a ticket for the game for his friend, David Rimmer, who died in the same pen. Tim Knowles was a 17-year-old A-level student, one of 10 friends from Formby who had gone to the match; only seven came back alive. Mike Bracken found himself crushed outside the ground, before entering through an exit gate. After buying a drink to recover, he was horrified to find thousands more fans converging on the tunnel to the already packed central pens. With no police officers deployed to seal the tunnel, Mike briefly tried to steer them away. But he was a 20-year-old fan in a jumper and jeans. There were no police there, the fans reasoned: so what could be the problem?
Nick Braley is an Ipswich fan. In 1989, aged 19, he was a student at Sheffield Poly, excited to be going to an FA Cup semi-final, even as a neutral. He was crushed towards the front of pen 3 and survived through the luck of being turned side-on to the fence. He was traumatised for years. The West Midlands officers who took his statement, which was critical of the policing, dismissed him as “a left-wing agitator”.
Richie Greaves was 23 when he was caught in one of the worst-affected parts of pen 3. He gave evidence to the first inquests, and came back to tell the same truth in Warrington. His wife, Lou, sits beside Deb: “Don’t forget to keep breathing,” Lou says, squeezing Deb’s arm gently. She is desperate to get her husband back.
Now, the jury begin. Their answers to the first five questions – on the multiple failures in police planning and in the police operation on the day – are resolved quickly. A formality. But all hinges on questions 6 and 7.Q6:
“Are you satisfied, so that you are sure, that those who died in the disaster were unlawfully killed? Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”
We sit here not just as survivors, but as some of the accused. From the moment the inquests began, in March 2014, lawyers for the former match commanders at Hillsborough, led by John Beggs QC, have thrown vicious allegations on their behalf: that we were drunk, without tickets, badly behaved, aggressive and non-compliant. We sit quietly, and wonder if the jury has seen through their bile. It will not be easy: over three decades, we have been described as “animalistic” (Chief Constable Peter Wright), “tanked-up yobs” (Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary Sir Bernard Ingham), and – quite simply – as “mental” (Paul Middup, Police Federation rep). Much of the public held us to be the people who pissed on brave coppers, or attacked them as they gave the kiss of life to stricken victims – all this while we were busy robbing the dead.
These allegations, of course, were mostly carried in the Sun’s infamous front-page story of 19 April 1989, under the headline The Truth. It was Kelvin MacKenzie’s final choice as a banner headline; the first he had considered was: “You Scum”.
A cross-section of the scum are here today. Damian has spent his career as a pensions administrator. Tim is a newspaper sub-editor. Nick is an accountant. Richie runs his own courier firm. Mike is a digital executive and a CBE. I am an author and journalist. All of us, just your average football fans of the 1980s.
Now the coroner reads out Q6 to the forewoman, still unseen. “Are you satisfied, so that you are sure, that those who died in the disaster were unlawfully killed? Is your answer yes?”
The forewoman’s voice is calm and reassuring, and wears lightly the huge responsibility. With the faintest trace of a lisp, she says: “Yes.”
People scream, and jump to their feet. Mike’s head begins to tremble in his hands. Richie turns towards me and punches the air. I turn slowly to Deb with tears in my eyes, and she smiles and rubs my back.
Then the moment is gone. For the coroner is on to Q7: “Was there any behaviour on the part of football supporters which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation at the Leppings Lane turnstiles?”
This is not just a question of truth now: people’s lives are in the balance. To be unfairly blamed for killing people is an insult so grievous as to seriously disturb the mind. I know of one survivor, “Ian”, who lost a friend in pen 3. In 2007, Ian became upset about the controversy generated by the appearance of Kelvin MacKenzie on Newsnight, and a few weeks later he hanged himself. There was Stephen Whittle, who gave his match ticket to a friend, who died. In February 2011, Stephen stepped in front of an express train. Two of my mates who survived pen 3 have tried to kill themselves; both, mercifully, survived. But we know that if this next question goes against us, people will almost certainly take their own lives. The jury cannot know this, of course. I look around at Deb, at Richie, at Damian and Lou. No one looks at me.
The coroner: “Was there any behaviour on the part of football supporters which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation at the Leppings Lane turnstiles? Is your answer No?”
People leap to their feet and punch the air. But again, momentary relief, for we are only halfway there. Now, having answered No, the jury are asked a supplementary question: was there any behaviour on the part of supporters that may have caused or contributed to the dangerous situation at the Leppings Lane turnstiles? That “may” sets the threshold so low, we fear the jury are practically being urged to find against us. As Tim Knowles said over an anguished pint a few months ago: “What kind of question is ‘May have?’ I might be found responsible for killing my friends on the basis of a vague, theoretical possibility.”
On 15 April 1989, I walked into Hillsborough. An hour later I am caught somewhere between this life and the next
But there is nothing vague about will happen to us: we will be vilified once more – for ever more – by the rightwing media and the police. We will be, for the first time in an official hearing, found culpable in killing our fellow fans. It is not the jury’s fault: they have been bounced into this. But people will die on a Yes, they may have…
The coroner: “Was there any behaviour on the part of supporters that may have caused or contributed to the dangerous situation at the Leppings Lane turnstiles? Is your answer No?”
I am sitting down but my knees give way. Tears are falling either side of my nose. The woman with the reassuring voice says “It is.”
And the place erupts.
Compression asphyxia. Ninety-three times it is recorded that afternoon as the cause of death at Hillsborough. It is definitive, but it offers only a glimpse into how our supporters died, or how extensive were the failings of the police and South Yorkshire metropolitan ambulance service.
On 15 April 1989, I walked down a tunnel into Hillsborough, and into the sunshine, thinking: “Where would you rather be on a day like this?” An hour later, at just after 3pm, I am caught somewhere between this life and the next.
The game has kicked off. I can see people in the north stand following it with their eyes. Others are fixated on the space around me, and pointing furiously, or running down the gangways to the pitch, shouting at police officers. But they are far away. Closer, a few feet away, people are dead on their feet. The air is thick with the smell of excrement and urine. Three men are changing colour, from a pale violet to a ghostly pallor. Some have vomit streaming from their nostrils. People are weeping. Others are gibbering, trying to black out what is happening. I am 19, and I know that I am about to die.
As my brain begins to flood my body with endorphins, I am lifted above the crowd, in a bubble of warm water. It is strangely peaceful. Then shouting: rasping, aggressive shouting. In a Yorkshire accent: “Get back you stupid bas**rds!”
Seconds, maybe minutes later, I open my eyes again. The sky is still blue, and the police have finally come through the gate in the perimeter fence. For the first time in an hour, I am standing up, untouched. Now, as I feel my body for broken ribs or bones, a group of people in front of me – who’d had their backs to me throughout the crush, and who I thought were alive – simply keel over and hit the concrete. A heap of tangled corpses piles up off the ground, three feet high. After a few seconds, I see a limb move and realise someone is alive in there. One police officer who comes through the gate later says that the scene “was like Belsen”.
Over the next half hour, as the police rush to get word to the BBC, the FA and Liverpool FC’s own lawyer that Liverpool fans had caused the disaster by storming the gates, I and hundreds of other survivors are kicking down advertising boards and picking up bodies. A group of us sprint to a dead man who is lying partially naked by the goalline. We put him on a board and run towards the Forest end, in search of ambulances. When none materialise, we exit the stadium via a ramp and are directed by police into the gymnasium, now a temporary mortuary.
Behind a badminton net, rows and rows of corpses under paper sheets, a policeman’s helmet on each chest. Coppers are sat around the edge of the gym, on chairs or on the floor, sobbing, hysterical. Someone is headbutting a wall. On the floor, two or three groups of people are each tending to a casualty: some are beating their patient’s chest, furiously, or blowing air into their mouth. Another man is kneeling, cradling the head of a lad in a black jacket, rocking him backwards and forwards gently, as he weeps. “He’s my brother,” he says, sobbing. “He’s my brother.” But he isn’t waking up.
I am holding the right hand of the dead man we picked up. It is cold, and greased in sweat. He is heavy, but I am reluctant to let him go. Someone leans over one of the casualties on the floor and begins to administer the last rites. And a voice in my head simply says: “You need to get out of here, now, otherwise you’ll go mad.”
For the next two decades, many survivors would struggle to retain their sanity. But it wasn’t us who had lost our senses: it was the British establishment.
Chief superintendent David Duckenfield, the match commander, did not lie alone, of course: this deceit was not simply the work of a bunch of bent coppers, but the product of a political culture debased. For years, historians have routinely rubbished the 70s as the decade that shamed us – 10 years of loon pants and luminous food; Britain at its most unhinged. But Hillsborough, a stain on British history like no other, can only be fully understood as part of the Thatcher era that gave rise to it. It was she who gave political cover to the South Yorkshire police, after they attacked the miners at Orgreave in 1984 and then tried to fit up dozens of them on a charge of riot – immunity their reward for breaking the strike. And as Kenneth Clarke MP has admitted, Thatcher had declared football fans as an enemy within: not football hooligans – football fans.
On 4 August 1989, Lord Justice Taylor produced his interim report into the causes of the disaster. He concluded that the main cause was overcrowding, and the main reason was the failure of police control. Here, essentially, was the truth the jury found in Warrington last week – laid before the public in August 1989. But the public didn’t get to see it first: Thatcher and her cabinet did.
On 1 August 1989, the report was presented to the home secretary, Douglas Hurd, who sent an internal memo to Thatcher. The chief constable, Hurd thought, will “have to resign”, as the “enormity of the disaster, and the extent to which the inquiry blames the police, demand this”. Hurd requested Thatcher’s support for his own statement, in which he would “welcome unreservedly the broad thrust of the report”. Thatcher replied: “What do we mean by ‘welcoming the broad thrust of the report’? The broad thrust is devastating criticism of the police. Is that for us to welcome? … Surely we welcome the thoroughness of the report and its recommendations. MT”.
And, at a stroke, justice was denied. Hurd had seen the rug pulled from under his feet. Now, he did not, could not, call for Chief Constable Peter Wright’s resignation – a move that would have left South Yorkshire police no option but to accept full responsibility. Suitably emboldened, they came out fighting, for 27 years.
Tributes are placed at Anfield, two days after Hillsborough. Photograph: Peter Kemp/AP
A few days after the disaster, I walk in to my doctor’s surgery. I am struggling to breathe properly, but I know, as I sit in the waiting room, that it isn’t my body that’s in need of attention.
After half an hour I am called in by a GP – old, patrician; pinstripe suit and spectacles. I tell him, quietly, that I was at Hillsborough on Saturday and my chest hurts. Hmm, he says. He presses a stethoscope to my skin, then sits down to write a referral for an x-ray. But he does not look at me. As I button up my shirt I am looking at his bald head. Look at me, I am saying, silently. Look at me, you b***ard. But he won’t.
Eventually, he hands over the referral while setting his eyes off to my right, and says – mumbles – “Do you… do you want to talk to anyone about this?” I pause for a few moments, then say no. I get up to go, and am almost at the door when he says: “It does look as if the Liverpool fans were to blame then, doesn’t it?” I turn to look at him, but all I feel is embarrassment – not for myself, but for him. “Oh well, good luck,” he says, brightly.
So it is that the first professional people to talk to me after Hillsborough are the West Midlands police. The WMP were initially appointed to assist the Taylor inquiry, and were retained as advisers to the wretched coroner, Stefan Popper, at the original inquests, between late 1990 and March 1991.
In July 1989, two plainclothes detectives arrived at my home in Stevenage. It was a Sunday, around 2pm, and the golf was on the TV. They sat me down, told me they would write down my statement by hand, and that I should then read it, and, if I was happy, sign it. So I began to tell them what had happened, and they began to laugh at me. They were soon snorting too, and yawning, and turning away to watch the golf. And nodding, sarcastically, when I told them about the failings of the police, and how they had abused our supporters as we tried to save the dead.
There is much, now, for the public to ponder. This is the biggest cover-up in British history
Now they handed over my statement. “Read it and sign it, would you?”
But I wasn’t happy. They had rewritten it; changed the meaning of certain incidents. Omitted key details. “Like what?” the officer said. Well, this happened, and this happened, I told them. He shook his head: “That didn’t happen.”
Repeatedly, they informed me that I was mistaken; that I hadn’t seen anything significant; that where I was in the stadium wasn’t that bad, and that I would not go forward as a witness at the inquests. My account was probably best simply filed away. So if I just sign this statement, we’ll be off, and you can get on with your life.
As I grew increasingly angry, the detective with the remote control in his hands pumped up the volume on the TV. I was shouting to be heard in my own living room, and they were trying to drown me out. Eventually, I signed that statement and they were gone. I could not have realised at the time, in the summer of 1989, that I was caught up in one of the biggest attempts to pervert the course of justice in British history. This was happening in real time. So I simply shut the front door, told them to “F**k off” under my breath, went up to my bedroom, and broke down.
But they had planted an awful, tiny seed of doubt in my mind. Where you were wasn’t that bad. You haven’t seen anything. Your recollection is faulty. They had come to steal my truth; but worse, they had implied that I was a fantasist; that I had overreacted. I must be soft, I thought: and soft in the head, too.
As the months and years went by, and the 1991 inquests recorded a verdict of accidental death, that little seed of doubt took root, and grew, and grew. Perhaps I was mistaken. Maybe I had overreacted. But it didn’t fit with the consistent nightmares, and the pile of corpses. It was like Belsen. Where you were wasn’t that bad.
I woke up on the kitchen floor one day, after blacking out. I had panic attacks on packed trains. One day, around 1993 or ’94, washing up, or feeding the cat, or cleaning my teeth, I stopped up short and asked myself: “Come on, were you even at Hillsborough?”
For years, intermittently, I would wake in a sweat that drenched the sheets. I would toss and turn so violently in my sleep that one day, I awoke with my feet on the pillow and my head hanging over the side of the bed.
One morning in 1993, I woke up in a police cell. No longer able to contain my rage, I had kicked off at police officers in London, and been clapped in handcuffs. Now, sitting on a chair in the station, I was handed a charge sheet. Read it and sign it, they said. Ah, I said… I picked up their paperwork, and held it up to the light; turned it over, put it back on the desk. “No, I don’t think so,” I said.
They laughed at me too, at first; then they gave me a bed, and threw the charge in the bin.
Then it happened again, in west London, in 1996. But this time, the duty sergeant who released me the following morning sat me down before I left. Gave me a cup of tea. Asked me what I was playing at. I seized my opportunity and said, “I was at Hillsborough in 1989, and I hate coppers.” He nodded, thoughtfully, and said: “Well, I can understand that. But you can’t carry on like this. You’ll ruin your life.”
I sat there disarmed… stumped. Finally, someone in authority had heard me. It was a two-minute conversation, no more… but I walked out of that police station a reformed character.
On Thursday, the Hillsborough families announced they would file a lawsuit against both South Yorkshire police and the West Midlands police. But what of the freemasons, those pantomime villains of the piece? In March 2015, David Duckenfield admitted what most of us had long suspected – he had been a freemason since the mid-70s. Remarkably, he was promoted to grand master of his lodge a year after Hillsborough.
While the masons’ role in the cover-up remains unclear – if indeed they had one – it is significant that Duckenfield sought to mitigate his gross negligence at Hillsborough by explaining that he was inexperienced as a match commander; that he had been dropped in at the deep end by Chief Constable Peter Wright. But Duckenfield was a limited officer; one who – some suspect – was only promoted to chief superintendent thanks to his masonic connections. The fact that Duckenfield was out of his depth at Hillsborough was certainly a factor in the deaths of the 96; perhaps this is the real indictment of a secret brotherhood pulling strings for people who would otherwise fail to prosper.
There is much, now, for the public to ponder. This is the biggest cover-up in British history – or at least the largest ever exposed. And really, what was it all for? Was this crime committed, and British justice so contaminated, simply to save the reputations of a handful of incompetent or corrupt police officers? Certainly, it appears they were worth more to those in power than 96 dead football fans and their families; worth more than justice itself.
But now the truth is out. And history will record that it was the police, and not us, who stole from the dead – they stole their lives, they stole the truth about their deaths, and they stole the next 27 years of the lives of their loved ones. They simply do not learn, the South Yorkshire police: there is a thread running from Orgreave, through Hillsborough, and on to the Rotherham child abuse scandal. There is the bill, too: their lies cost the taxpayer £18m in legal fees in Warrington. Worse: the Independent Police Complaints Commission and Operation Resolve investigations into the cover-up are expected to conclude next year at a further cost of £80m.
The conspiracy to pervert the course of justice was but one part of a deceit: the other was a cultural deception. Football fans were the innocent party in this disaster, but we were then robbed of our stake in the game, and of a serious say in how it should be reformed. It was the FA who granted Hillsborough three successive FA cup semi-finals between 1987-89, despite the fact that the ground had ceased to be in possession of a valid safety certificate as of December 1981. But in 1991, the organisation signalled that it was the fans, and not itself, that should change. In its manifesto, a response to Hillsborough and the Taylor report, the FA’s Blueprint for the Future of Football stated: “the response of most sectors has been to move upmarket so as to follow the affluent middle-class consumer … in his or her pursuits or aspirations. We strongly suggest that there is a message in this for football.”
In 1992, the FA-backed Premier League appeared. In its first, crucial deal with a TV broadcaster, it hopped into bed with BSkyB, owned by Rupert Murdoch, of course: the man ultimately responsible for the Sun’s calumny. The scum had been cut adrift.
Elsewhere, commentators talk of all-seater stadia as “the lasting legacy of the 96”. While I accept that many of the bereaved welcome all-seater stadia, the families, more than anything, asked for justice, not a plastic seat. Moreover, the 96 died because they wanted to stand on a terrace; they believed in terrace culture. The price of a ticket for the Leppings Lane end of the stadium on 15 April 1989 was £6; a seat ticket £10 – the differential was not prohibitive. The truth is they died not because terraces are inherently unsafe, but because the Leppings Lane was unsafe.
There is a sense now that a truth of this order must lead to change. On Tuesday, when the jury gave its determinations, BBC journalists with no personal connections to the disaster broke down in court and wept. It is not simply that the jury had got everything right – a remarkable achievement, given the complexity of the case: it is that Hillsborough was never simply a football disaster; it is the tragedy of this country in the 1980s. An entire class of people abandoned by those in power; a police force politicised, who literally turned their backs on people as they screamed for their lives; the transformation of a sport that was a culture into a rapacious, globalised business – sold off to the middle class, on the basis of a monumental injustice.
On Tuesday night, I went to the Ship and Mitre pub in Liverpool. At 9pm we walked in to the sound of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds. Around me, survivors, journalists, the bereaved: singing, drinking, laughing; falling flat on their arses, pissed, and getting up again. A community of people, enjoying the quiet satisfaction that they might just have exposed the biggest miscarriage of justice in British history.
There was satisfaction, too, in the fact that Thatcher had once again been undone: for if, as she claimed, there was no such thing as society, then how had this justice been won, and our country made the better for it? Our most important tools, as campaigners, were each other; the fact we stuck together as a community. It is no coincidence that no other city rejected Thatcherism to the same degree as Liverpool. The likes of Bernard Ingham, Boris Johnson and Simon Heffer disdain the idea of communities holding together, for fear we might take the powerful to task. And we have. Now accountability must follow. Just as old age did not save celebrity sex offenders from prison, nor should it spare former police officers and others who have conspired to pervert the course of justice on such a scale, and to sustain the lie over 27 years. It would be absurd if the passage of time were their defence now.
It would be false to write that all is sweetness and light in Liverpool this week. There is a great deal of anger and frustration among the survivors I know; it will take months, perhaps years to subside. Perhaps it never will. Similarly, this justice is one of the great moments of my life, but it will not bring closure; because for many people who have suffered deep trauma, the notion of closure is false. It presumes that once traumatised, you are set off on a straight path; that if you simply keep going, then one day, eventually, you will reach a finish line. Cross it, and you have won. But post-traumatic stress condemns you to a circular track, on which you must simply keep going, round and round, for ever. The going might become easier, but there is no finish line. All you can hope to do is accommodate your trauma into your life as best you can. And if you do that, then you have won.
Hillsborough will always be part of who I am and how I live. It is a torment and a privilege: having come so close to dying at 19, I haven’t wasted my life. And I count so many wonderful people as friends. I am satisfied that I have been part of a campaign, as a journalist and a supporter, to expose this terrible truth. And I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to six women and three men from Warrington whose names I do not know. They have restored my faith in the country I live in; and in the idea of justice.
And then there is Jenni Hicks. After we had both stood on the steps of St George’s Hall in Liverpool, at Wednesday evening’s vigil, in front of a crowd of 30,000, we retired to the Shankly hotel for a quiet drink, with families and survivors and campaigners. Jenni was gracious, as ever. In her hand, she held two red roses, for the daughters she lost. And she hugged me and told me that without justice for the fans, an unlawful killing verdict would have been meaningless to the families. I sat there with two brilliant Hillsborough campaigners, Jim Sharman and Chris Lightbown, and we watched her go into the night – go home with her two red roses. And we raised a glass to Sarah and Victoria, and to 94 other Liverpool fans, that they might rest in peace.
For on 26 April 2016, we rewrote history. We made history. After 27 years and 11 days, finally, we got justice for the 96.http://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/may/01/hillsborough-inquest-survivor-adrian-tempany
Adrian Tempany’s book, And the Sun Shines Now: How Hillsborough and the Premier League Changed Britain, is published by Faber on 2 June. Extract: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/mar/08/how-football-lost-touch-young-fans