After 27 years, police blamed for UK's Hillsborough soccer stadium tragedy

Wed Apr 27, 2016 9:31am EDT
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By Phil Noble

WARRINGTON, England (Reuters) - Police were responsible for the deaths of 96 Liverpool soccer fans in the 1989 Hillsborough stadium crush, a jury concluded on Tuesday after two years of hearings into Britain's worst sporting disaster.

The inquest verdicts of "unlawful killing", which could pave the way for prosecutions, were greeted with a mix of cheers and tears by relatives of the victims, who sang the Liverpool fans' anthem "You'll never walk alone" outside the court in Warrington, northern England.

The families had campaigned for almost three decades to get "Justice for the 96", refusing to accept the deaths were accidental.

They said the police, who at first blamed the tragedy on the supporters themselves, had told lies and staged a cover-up of "industrial proportions" to hide their mistakes in managing the crowd surging into the stadium.

"The conspiracy and lies which began on the 15th April 1989 and continued over the years involving police, politicians, and officials of high standing has been the most evil act of man's inhumanity to man," Karen Hankin, whose husband Eric was among those killed, told a news conference.

The fans, many of them young, died in an overcrowded, fenced-in enclosure at the Hillsborough ground in Sheffield, northern England, at an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest on a sunny spring afternoon. It was one of the world's worst stadium disasters.

Britons were shocked by harrowing images of supporters crushed against metal fences, bodies lying on the pitch and spectators using wooden advertising hoardings as makeshift stretchers.

After the longest jury proceedings ever held in England, the inquest jurors ruled by a 7-2 majority that the fans had been unlawfully killed, finding police commanders had made mistakes in the build-up to the match and on the day itself. The jury absolved Liverpool fans of any role.   Continued...

Floral tributes are left at the Hillsborough memorial in Liverpool, northern England April 27, 2016.REUTERS/Phil Noble