But let’s start at the very beginning, as it’s a very good place to start. The Sun’s first edition after the fatal crush at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough, on Monday 17 April, splashed a front page photo so disturbing that it will not be reproduced here. Under the headline “THEY DIED SO YOUNG”, readers saw over their breakfasts a tangled mass of bodies crushed against the security fence, some of whom were either dead or dying.
The Sun didn’t care even then. It just went ahead and published. At the foot of the page was the needless observation “This was the nightmare of Hillsborough. Young fans battle for breath as they are crushed in the soccer disaster that claimed 94 lives. Fencing designed to stop hooligans had killed the innocent”, before the characteristically OTT “16-PAGE SUN DISASTER SPECIAL STARTS ON PAGE 2”.
“THE TRUTH” actually contained a grain of truth. The revulsion at the decision to smear Liverpool fans with the Wednesday 19 April edition of the Sun may have diverted attention from the photo at right centre. The caption reads “Opened the gate … Superintendent Marshall”. For many years, it was claimed that Liverpool fans battered the exit gate down. Marshall eventually came clean.
The smears didn’t stop with the Wednesday edition. The next day, readers were told “I WAS ROBBED BY KOP YOBS”, while an editorial showed that, at the time other papers were rowing back on using the same claim that got the Sun into such trouble, Kelvin McFilth shunned the chance to do so. “The truth hurts” it was headlined, going on to tell “THE truth hurts. But that is no excuse to hide from it”. There was more.
“On Page One yesterday, we reported the unpalatable facts about the behaviour of SOME of the Liverpool fans at Hillsborough … Many of those who stormed into the ground had been drinking. Some urinated on rescue workers trying to save dying youngsters. Others looted the pockets of the injured … We did not invent that horrific report. The facts came from the Police, an MP, local publicans and taxi drivers”. And yet more.
“The people of Liverpool are angry that The Sun published the truth. Misguided local radio DJs urge listeners not to buy the paper … Will that bring back the dead? Of course not … But hopefully, telling the world exactly what went on at Hillsborough will mean that something is done to prevent such a disaster happening again … If the price to be paid is that some of you stop buying the Sun, then so be it … You have a choice … The 95 who died at Hillsborough had no such choice”.