Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

'Wicked smears' at Hillsborough

The tragedy occurred at the Leppings Lane end of the ground

The jury at the Hillsborough inquests was told of an "epidemic of wicked smears" started by police about Liverpool fans as the disaster unfolded.

David Walker, now the Sunday Mirror sports editor, was a reporter for the Daily Mail at the time, covering the FA Cup semi-final match on April 15, 1989 between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

The jury at the inquests into the deaths of the 96 Liverpool fans crushed to death on the Leppings Lane terrace was read part of an article Mr Walker wrote earlier this year for the Daily Mirror.

In the article, headlined, 'Hillsborough: I went to report on a football match and ended up in the middle of a heartbreaking tragedy' Mr Walker wrote: "Around this time on that Saturday afternoon the story was leaked that Liverpool fans had broken into the stadium to spark the crush.

"In my notes, I had names and quotes from Liverpool fans who had been standing in the courtyard outside Leppings Lane when the police ordered the gates to be opened.

"It had been no hooligan invasion by ticketless fans.

"I reported on the outrage of fans who knew they were being smeared by the police via unwitting FA officials.

"Looking back, that was one of the less contentious lies, but in many ways it started an epidemic of wicked smears and unsubstantiated rumours that quickly spun completely out of control and caused rifts that survive to this day."

Rajiv Menon, representing a number of victim's families, asked the witness: "Mr Walker, do you stand by those words?"

Mr Walker replied: "Yes, and if you would like me to explain..."

The Coroner, Lord Justice Goldring, interjected: "I think, Mr Walker, they speak for themselves. Thank you."

The inquests, in Warrington, are currently going over the preparation and planning for the match, with questions for witnesses and representatives from South Yorkshire Police, the fire and ambulance services, match hosts Sheffield Wednesday FC and the club's safety advisers and structural engineers, Eastwood and Partners.

The hearing was adjourned until Monday morning.

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