Cameron Apologizes For 1989 U.K. Sporting Disaster

More than 20 years after Britain's worst sporting disaster, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed that there was a police and media conspiracy to blacken the names of the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. After summing up the blistering conclusions reached by an independent panel, Cameron apologized to the families of the 96 victims — Liverpool soccer fans who had come to Sheffield's Hillsborough stadium to watch their team play.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

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And I'm Audie Cornish. British Prime Minister David Cameron apologized today for a pattern of lies and official cover-ups over Britain's worst sporting disaster. Ninety-six soccer fans were crushed to death at the Hillsborough Stadium in the city of Sheffield in 1989 and then falsely blamed for the disaster. Vicki Barker reports from London.

VICKI BARKER, BYLINE: In the days after the Hillsborough disaster, Rupert Murdoch's Sun newspaper reported that visiting Liverpool fans had picked the pockets of the dead and urinated on cops trying to save the dying. It said the crush was caused by drunken, ticketless Liverpool fans trying to push their way into the Sheffield stadium. The Sun's headline that day: The Truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Order, statement, the prime minister.

BARKER: Today, David Cameron revealed The Sun story to be lies, lies deliberately planted, an independent panel says, by the police and a Sheffield lawmaker. To audible gasps from parliament, Cameron said local police also made sure incriminating evidence never reached investigators.

PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: Today's report finds that 164 statements were significantly amended and 116 explicitly removed negative comments about the policing operation, including its lack of leadership.

BARKER: The police, rescue crews, stadium management and local authorities, all had failed, Cameron said, and many then lied about it. The conservative prime minister's sweeping apology echoed by opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband.

ED MILIBAND: It shames us as a country that it's taken 23 years to get to the truth about what happened at Hillsborough.

BARKER: Cameron said the families suffered a double injustice because successive U.K. governments had ignored their long campaign to clear their loved ones' names. A campaign, bereaved mother Margaret Aspinall says, that had to be paid for out of their own pockets, unlike their powerful and well-funded opponents.

MARGARET ASPINALL: They got their legal costs paid out of the taxpayers' money, and yet, they were the liars, and we were the truthful ones.

BARKER: Today's most painful revelation for the families, that as many as 41 of the dead might have survived if ambulance crews hadn't abandoned resuscitation attempts. That's something the coroner apparently chose to ignore. No individual or organization has ever faced charges over Hillsborough. Cameron says Britain's high court will likely be asked to order a new inquest into those 96 deaths. For NPR News, I'm Vicki Barker in London.

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