Hillsborough victim's mother angry at 'drunken fans' claim

Fan tributes at Hillsborough in 1989
Image caption The families of those who died have been calling for the release of papers

The mother of a Hillsborough disaster victim has reacted angrily to leaked papers which show a senior police chief blamed "drunken Liverpool fans".

The unnamed Merseyside officer made the claim in a briefing received by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher days after the disaster in 1989.

Hillsborough Families Support Group's Margaret Aspinall said it was "a disgrace".

Mrs Aspinall's 18-year-old son James died in the tragedy.

Ninety-five Liverpool fans lost their lives at Hillsborough, after a crush on overcrowded terraces during the FA Cup Semi Final in April 1989. The 96th victim Tony Bland died in 1992 after the Law Lords allowed his artificial feeding to be stopped.

The official inquiry said the disaster was caused by the failure in crowd control by South Yorkshire Police.

Delivering his report into the disaster in 1990, Lord Justice Taylor said the "great majority were not drunk or even the worse for drink," and said that "some officers, seeking to rationalise their loss of control, overestimated the drunkenness in the crowd".

He added that the efforts of supporters to help those in trouble were "magnificent".

'Rather appalling'

Leaked documents, made public for the first time by BBC Radio 4's The World at One, include a letter which states the officer said he was "deeply ashamed to say that it was drunken Liverpool fans who had caused this disaster, just as they had caused the deaths at Heysel".

The then Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, the late Sir Kenneth Oxford, was also quoted in the documents, saying "a key factor in causing the disaster was the fact that large numbers of Liverpool fans had turned up without tickets".

"This was getting lost sight of in attempts to blame the police, the football authorities, etc," he said.

The words were written just days after the disaster. It is not known if the views of the chief constable and those of his senior officers changed over subsequent weeks.

Mrs Aspinall said that while the comments were "rather appalling", she welcomed the release of the documents.

"I think it's very important for the simple reason that we always knew that there was a cover up about Hillsborough," she said.

"Because we feel that way, they should release every little bit of documentation that was withheld for the families to see these papers and for the independent panel to scrutinise them and to actually find out what was said, especially just after the disaster."

"The thing I'm most upset about is the way they are accusing the fans.

"Survivors and fans there that day went to watch a game and they watched a massacre unfold."

Labour MP for Liverpool Walton Steve Rotherham, who was at the game as a fan and swapped his ticket for the Leppings Lane end, where the fans died, 15 minutes before kick off, said he was furious with the leak and demanded an investigation.

"I think this is totally malicious and vexatious," he said, adding that it was undermining the work of the independent Hillsborough panel.

'Truth must be told'

Labour MP Andy Burnham, who is originally from Liverpool, said: "These papers seem to confirm what we've believed for many, many years - that immediate attempts were made from the highest levels to shift the blame on to the supporters and away from the police.

"The truth must be told and the people of Liverpool must have an apology for one of the greatest injustices of the 20th Century."

However, Liverpool City Council leader Joe Anderson criticised the BBC. He said: "The BBC has behaved in an unprofessional way in putting out those headlines, which have caused a lot of people a lot of distress, without putting it in full context."

For years, the families of those who died have been calling for the release of secret government and police papers relating to the disaster.

The government has agreed that this will happen but due to a reviewing process by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, set up in 2009, they are not expected to be made available until later this year.

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