The extent of South Yorkshire Police’s attempts to smear Liverpool supporters in the aftermath of Hillsborough is now much better understood, following the recent publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s report into the disaster.
In an earlier blogpost I wrote about how the panel’s easily-searchable database of papers shows how elements within the police used the media to do this. I’ve now come across another fascinating and shocking document, which hints at how desperate the police were to blame fans for the tragedy.
Within two months of Hillsborough, DI Alan King of South Yorkshire Police had compiled a 204-page dossier described as a “Report, statements and documents showing behaviour of Liverpool fans before, during and after the Disaster.” In essence, it was an attempt to show that Liverpool supporters were in the habit of arriving late for matches, many of them without tickets, and that this had happened again at Hillsborough.
The most striking paragraph was 4.2, which discussed the behaviour of Everton fans before their semi-final with Norwich, which took place on the same day as Hillsborough. DI King noted: “…the Everton supporters behaviour at Villa Park shows a remarkable coincidence with the Liverpool supporters at Hillsborough which may indicate some Liverpool characteristic.” (my emphasis)
Even allowing for all the details within the Hillsborough archive, I thought this comment was particularly stunning.
King’s report was weak in terms of direct evidence. It began by offering a selection of accounts from other police forces of previous all-ticket away matches involving Liverpool, in which groups of ticketless fans had sometimes been admitted (after paying on the gate) in order to prevent crowd trouble.
King glossed over the 25 reports of ticket-related misbehaviour filed by officers at Hillsborough as “only the tip of the iceberg” and asserted that future reports by officers, still being processed, would “no doubt contain a lot of similar material”. There were also statements outlining what can only be described as pub gossip about what individual Liverpool fans were saying about their plans for getting into the game.
King also stated: “Given the opportunity to read and study the many civilian statements taken by the West Midlands Investigation Team, it may be that the evidence to hand could be enhanced further.” (my emphasis) It all offers another sobering insight into the mindset of senior figures within South Yorkshire Police in the weeks following the disaster.