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Bernard Ingham, who called Liverpool fans 'tanked up yobs', still refuses to apologise to Hillsborough families despite inquest findings

Bernard Ingham has refused to apologise to Hillsborough families despite the inquest finding that 96 victims were unlawfully killed in a tragedy caused by police blunders.

Margaret Thatcher's former chief press secretary told The Mirror on Tuesday that he was not willing to talk about the verdicts.

In a 1996 letter replying to Liverpool fan Graham Skinner - whose friend had died in the disaster - Ingham said: "I believe there would have been no Hillsborough disaster if tanked up yobs had not turned up in very large numbers to try to force their way in the ground."

He added that Liverpool should "shut up about Hillsborough".

Asked whether he would apologise for calling Liverpool fans "tanked up yobs", he said: "I have nothing to say".

The letter to Mr Skinner can be read in full below.

Lawyers acting for the families said the conclusions, at the end of the longest jury case in British legal history, had completely vindicated their tireless 27-year battle for the truth.

The deaths were ruled accidental at the end of the original 1991 inquest.

But those verdicts were quashed following the 2012 Hillsborough Independent Panel report, which concluded that a major cover-up had taken place in an effort by police and others to avoid the blame for what happened.

The new jury concluded that blunders by the police and ambulance service on the day had "caused or contributed" to the disaster and that the victims had been unlawfully killed.

The jury forewoman wiped away tears and had a catch in her voice as she confirmed the answers to 14 questions about the disaster to coroner Sir John Goldring.

We had the media against us, as well as the establishment

Leading Hillsborough campaigner Margaret Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James died in the disaster, said afterwards: "Let's be honest about this - people were against us. We had the media against us, as well as the establishment.

"Everything was against us. The only people that weren't against us was our own city. That's why I am so grateful to my city and so proud of my city.

"They always believed in us."

Surrounded by a sea of camera crews and reporters outside the court, she added: "I think we have changed a part of history now - I think that's the legacy the 96 have left."

Labour MP Andy Burnham, who has supported the campaign, said: "This has been the greatest miscarriage of justice of our times.

"But, finally, it is over."

The jurors were told they could only reach the unlawful killing determination if they were sure of four "essential" matters concerning the deaths at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

They had to be convinced match commander Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield owed a duty of care to those who died, and that he was in breach of that duty of care.

Thirdly, they would need to be satisfied that his breach of duty caused the deaths and, fourthly, that it amounted to "gross negligence".

They concluded it was unlawful killing by a 7-2 majority.

The jury also ruled that fan behaviour did not cause or contribute to the tragedy.

The Hillsborough disaster unfolded during Liverpool's cup tie against Nottingham Forest on April 15 as thousands of fans were crushed at Sheffield Wednesday's ground.

Mr Duckenfield gave the order at 2.52pm to open exit Gate C in Leppings Lane, allowing around 2,000 fans to flood into the already packed central pens behind the goal.

The jury found that:

  • Both the police and the ambulance service caused or contributed to the loss of lives in the disaster by an error or omission after the terrace crush had begun to develop;
     
  • Policing of the match caused or contributed to a dangerous situation developing at the Leppings Lane turnstiles;
     
  • Commanding officers caused or contributed to the crush on the terrace, as did those senior officers in the police control box when the order was given to open the exit gates at Leppings Lane;
     
  • Features of the design, construction and layout of the stadium considered to be dangerous or defective caused or contributed to the disaster;
     
  • Sheffield Wednesday's then consultant engineers, Eastwood & Partners, should have done more to detect and advise on any unsafe or unsatisfactory features of the stadium.

On the question of the role of South Yorkshire Police in the emergency response, the jury said: "The police delayed calling a major incident so the appropriate emergency response was delayed.

"There was a lack of co-ordination, command and control which delayed or prevented appropriate responses."

On the role of former South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service (Symas), the jury said: "Symas officers at the scene failed to ascertain the nature of the problem at Leppings Lane.

"The failure to recognise and call a major incident led to delays in the responses to the emergency."

Criminal investigations into the disaster and claims of corruption in its aftermath could finish by the end of the year, when prosecutors will decide whether to charge any individual or organisation.

The officer leading the police inquiry, Assistant Commissioner Jon Stoddart, said: "Now that the inquests have concluded, my sole focus is on completing the criminal investigation which I expect will be finished by the turn of the year.

"It will then be for the Crown Prosecution Service to consider the evidence and decide whether any individual or organisation should face criminal prosecution."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission, the official police watchdog, also expects its investigation - the biggest in its history - to finish in December or January.

The jury of six women and three men gave their decisions on an emotionally charged day for relatives of the 96, many of whom were in court.

The fresh inquests began on March 31, 2014 in a specially-built courtroom in Warrington, Cheshire.

After the key conclusions were delivered on Tuesday, someone in court shouted "God bless the jury".

The jurors were given a round of applause as they left the courtroom.

Dozens of relatives of the victims have attended each of the more than 300 days the court has sat.

As families left the building they were met with applause from crowds who had gathered outside the court in support.

Many began singing Liverpool's anthem You'll Never Walk Alone.

Letter from Bernard Ingham to Graham Skinner

December 30, 1996

"Thank you for your letter of December 11. I believe that there would have been no Hillsborough disaster if tanked-up yobs had not turned up in very large numbers to try to force their way into the ground.

I visited Hillsborough the day after the disaster and I know what I learned then. I have never denied that the police may have made mistakes, but I firmly believe that the Lord Chief Justice whitewashed the real culprits and I said so from the moment I read his report.

I have not seen the McGovern film. But I am long enough in the tooth to know that TV films should never be accepted as evidence. But let us suppose there is something in the film – for example, the “evidence” that the pens were already full when the gates were opened. W

What, then were all those people doing trying to get into the ground? I have never, of course, said where they came from because I do not know.

I have no intention of apologising for my views which are sincerely held on the basis of what I heard first hand at Hillsborough. I have, however, one suggestion to make: for its own good, Liverpool – with the Heysel disaster in the background – should shut up about Hillsborough.

“Nothing can now bring back those who died – innocent people who, by virtue of being in the ground early, had their lives crushed out of them by a mob surging in late.

To go on about it serves only to confirm in many people’s minds that Liverpool has a very bad conscience about soccer disasters. I think it a disgrace to the public service that South Yorkshire policemen have won the right to compensation.

But it will do Liverpool no good whatsoever in the eyes of the nation if, egged on by ambulance-chasing lawyers, those who saw their relatives killed at Hillsborough now sue for compensation for the “trauma”. Is the pain of losing a relative to be soothed away by a fat cheque?

Take my advice, Mr Skinner: least said, soonest mended for Liverpool."

Liverpool FC's chief executive officer Ian Ayre's statement on Hillsborough inquests

Following the return of the jury's determinations at the Hillsborough inquests today, Liverpool FC's chief executive officer Ian Ayre has released this statement.

“After 27 long years the true verdict has finally been delivered, confirming what the families always believed – their loved ones were unlawfully killed.

“Liverpool Football Club welcomes the jury’s decision, once and for all, that our supporters were not in any way responsible for what happened at Hillsborough. We will always remember the selfless bravery and heroism of the many fans that helped their fellow supporters in the most harrowing of circumstances that day. We praise those who, since the beginning of the inquest, have had to find the courage and strength to re-live what they went through.

“Since April 15, 1989, the solidarity shown by Liverpool fans towards the families and survivors encapsulates the unique character of both the club and city. We are also hugely thankful for the unwavering support the wider football community has so generously shown these past 27 years.

“It has been a painful journey for the families and survivors, who have endured and sacrificed so much for so long. The resilience and dignity they have shown throughout their tireless campaign has been humbling and inspirational. Their conduct and actions throughout their struggle has brought pride to the city of Liverpool and will serve as a lasting tribute to the victims.

“The 96 men, women and children who were unlawfully killed at Hillsborough will never be forgotten.”









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