Sun reporter Harry Arnold's Hillsborough headline regret

The Sun journalist who wrote a story alleging drunk Liverpool fans abused victims and police during the Hillsborough disaster said he was "aghast" when he saw the headline.

Reporter Harry Arnold told the BBC his story had been written in a "fair and balanced way" and the controversial claims had been "allegations".

He said it was editor Kelvin MacKenzie who wrote the headline "The Truth".

Official papers will be released on Wednesday, 23 years after the disaster.

On 15 April 1989, 95 Liverpool fans were crushed to death and hundreds more injured on the steel-fenced terraces of Sheffield Wednesday's stadium, which was hosting the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

The 96th victim died in 1993 after four years in a persistent vegetative state.

Requests have been made by the BBC for a response or comment from Mr MacKenzie, but he has so far not responded.

'Can't say that'

In the programme, called Hillsborough: Searching for the Truth, Mr Arnold says: "On the Sun, Kelvin MacKenzie was the rather controversial editor at the time. He liked to write his own headlines.

"He wrote the headline 'The Truth', and the reason I know that is I was about to leave the newsroom when I saw him drawing up the front page.

"When I saw the headline 'The Truth' I was aghast, because that wasn't what I'd written.

"I'd never used the words the truth, "this is the truth about the Hillsborough Disaster" - I'd merely written, I hoped and I still believe, in a balanced and fair way.

"So I said to Kelvin MacKenzie, "You can't say that".

"And he said 'Why not?' and I said 'because we don't know that it's the truth. This is a version of 'the truth'.

"And he brushed it aside and said 'Oh don't worry. I'm going to make it clear that this is what some people are saying'.

"And I walked away thinking, well I'm not happy with the situation.

"But the fact is reporters don't argue with an editor.

"And in particular, you don't argue with an editor like Kelvin MacKenzie."

'Rancid lie'

Liverpool fan Dave Kirby, who was at Hillsborough on the day of the tragedy, said: "Talk about kicking you when you're down. That was our hour of need.

"We had our arms open, looking for compassion and they came up with that despicable, obscene, rancid lie.

Image caption Liverpool fan Dave Kirby said The Sun had printed a "despicable lie"

"There were a few broadsheets that went with it but it was The Sun that went with 'The Truth'."

A police officer who was on duty at Hillsborough when the events of 15 April 1989 unfolded told the programme he understood the anger of people in the ground at the time.

The officer said he had been at the scene and the fans did not behave in ways described by The Sun's front page headline or strap-lines.

He said: "I didn't see any Liverpool fans urinating on a police officer, or any police officers, and I didn't see any Liverpool fans steal money, steal money from dead people or pick money up that had fallen out of people's pockets.

"I didn't see that. And it probably didn't happen."

Thousands of documents

Senior officers responsible for policing the game, David Duckenfield and Bernard Murray, faced disciplinary proceedings and both left the force.

Mr Murray was cleared of two counts of manslaughter and the jury could not reach a verdict on Mr Duckenfield at a private prosecution at Leeds Crown Court in July 2000.

The documents relating to the Hillsborough disaster will be released at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral on 12 September.

The government and police documents will be released in conjunction with a report from the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

It has examined hundreds of thousands of documents related to the disaster and has been chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend James Jones.

Hillsborough: Searching for the Truth is broadcast on BBC One in Yorkshire and the North West on Sunday at 22:25 BST.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites