Northern Ireland

Newspaper editor recalls horror of Hillsborough tragedy

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Image caption Floral tributes at the Hillsborough Memorial at Anfield in Liverpool on the 10th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy

A journalist who is now based in Northern Ireland has spoken movingly of covering the 1989 Hillsborough disaster more than two decades ago.

Nick Garbutt was the editor of the Liverpool Daily Post when 96 fans died after a crush on the terraces of Sheffield Wednesday's ground on 15 April 1989. Relatives of Liverpool supporters are examining previously unseen documents about what happened.

Mr Garbutt, also a former editor of the Irish News newspaper in Northern Ireland, says he still feels emotional and angry about that day.

"At the time, I was at home decorating the hall and listening to the build-up to the match on the radio. It became clear, immediately, something awful had happened and I just downed tools and went into work. I was there till 12.30 that night, similarly a long day the next day.

"The worst thing for me was on the Monday when the police gave all the names of those people that had died, 94, at that stage. Two more died later.

"We didn't have enough staff to cope, we didn't have enough reporters. So what we had to do was to get together with the Liverpool Echo, which was the evening paper, and we pulled together a team of 18 or 20 reporters.

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Image caption Nick Garbutt was editor of the Daily Post in Liverpool at the time of the tragedy

"They were each allocated four or five families to go and see. By about lunch time, one by one, they came back with four or five pictures which they put down on the desk in front of me. By five o'clock, there were 94 of them."

"Newsrooms are cynical places, (there's) lots of noise, lots of shouting.

"This place was silent, there were people weeping and I found it very, very hard to cope.

"I was looking through these pictures and some of them were school kids in their uniforms, some of them were pictures taken at parties, holiday snaps, all the stuff that people have of loved ones... and just thinking: 'I don't even know how we are going to fit this into the paper'.

"I remember the anger at the time which really stems from the way the press, that wasn't based in Liverpool, covered the story.

"And the Sun wasn't the only paper that did that. So you had on the one hand, the Sun's attitude, based on no evidence whatsoever, that Liverpool fans had urinated on the dead and picked their pockets, and then on the other hand the kind of thing you got from the Guardian-type newspaper that the outpourings of grief in Liverpool were somehow mawkish and overly sentimental.

"One real abiding memory for me of all that was the next Saturday at three minutes past six in Liverpool. There was two minutes silence to remember the dead. I was in British Home Stores at the time. At three minutes past six everything stopped.

"The tills stopped, everybody stood quietly where they were. So I slipped outside to see what was happening on the street. All the traffic lights had gone to red, all the cars were stopped and everybody was frozen where they were on the street.

"And all you could hear was just very faintly, dogs barking from miles away in the suburbs. It was quite extraordinary.


"What you have is the grief that families suffered from - their loved one went to a football match and didn't come back and yet somehow there was 'something wrong' with them.

"(Newspapers reported) they were drunk, they were evil, they were doing really bad things. And it was somehow wrong to mourn for them.

"So I would imagine that just like anybody else they want closure they want to know that their loved ones didn't do anything wrong and they probably want the authorities to be held to account."

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