Football: Liverpool unites for Hillsborough tribute

27th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

A bell tolled in Liverpool to commemorate the Hillsborough disaster victims on Wednesday as the city paid tribute after a landmark inquest found 96 Liverpool football fans were unlawfully killed in the 1989 stadium crush.

The Liverpool Municipal Buildings bell was struck 96 times from 3:06pm -- the time the match at Hillsborough was stopped -- as thousands of sympathisers in the city prepared to pay tribute.

The commemorations came a day after a jury said police blunders caused the crush, raising the pressure for criminal prosecutions of those responsible following the two-year inquest.

"Their search for justice has been met with obfuscation and hostility instead of sympathy and answers... This whole process took far too long," Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament.

Two criminal investigations into Hillsborough should conclude by the end of the year and prosecutors will then consider whether charges can be brought.

One probe is looking at the lead-up to the tragedy and the day of the match itself. The second is investigating the alleged cover-up attempt afterwards.

Possible offences included gross negligence manslaughter, perverting the course of justice and perjury, Home Secretary Theresa May told parliament.

- Police 'lying for 27 years' -

There is set to be a particular focus on the role of David Duckenfield, the officer in charge of policing the Hillsborough ground in Sheffield, northern England, on the day of the disaster.

He ordered the opening of a perimeter gate to relieve pressure outside the ground. That enabled 2,000 fans to surge into already over-full terracing pens, causing the fatal crush.

Duckenfield, now 71 and retired, admitted at the inquest he told a "terrible lie" in the immediate aftermath of the disaster by claiming fans had stormed the gate.

The inquest heard evidence of how the police -- at the height of English football hooliganism -- tried to minimise their role in the tragedy.

In the wake of the disaster, The Sun and several other newspapers published allegations -- long since retracted -- about the conduct of Liverpool fans.

They were based on a Sheffield news agency report quoting senior police officers, and a local MP reiterating their claims.

They included that drunken fans picked the pockets of victims, urinated on police officers and attacked an officer giving the kiss of life.

Kelvin MacKenzie, who edited The Sun at the time, told BBC television Wednesday that he felt "completely duped" and was "appalled to discover the police had been lying for 27 years".

- 'You'll Never Walk Alone' -

Opposition Labour home affairs spokesman Andy Burnham was instrumental in the Hillsborough justice campaign.

He urged that those responsible for the unlawful deaths and for a "27-year cover-up" be held to account.

May told parliament that families had faced "attempts to cover up what really happened", and "most of the general public... believed the stories that they read about the fans.

"To have stood against that for so long shows steel" and a "passionate desire for justice", she said.

Thousands were expected to pack the streets of Liverpool, northwest England for Wednesday's public commemoration outside St. George's Hall in the city centre.

The event, in the presence of the victims' families, will be filled with music, speeches and moments of reflection.

The names and ages of the dead were to be displayed on big screens. Some 38 of the victims were aged between 10 and 19.

The event will conclude with a choir leading the crowd through the Liverpool Football Club anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone".

© 2016 AFP

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