26 Sep 2012

Kelvin MacKenzie demands Hillsborough apology from police

When I met Kelvin MacKenzie at his large home in Surrey, he was hard at work on the article in which he will disclose he’s instructed his lawyers to demand an apology from South Yorkshire Police.

His lawyers will claim Mr MacKenzie has suffered “personal vilification for decades” as a result of what they say are the mistakes of South Yorkshire Police. He will claim that police patrols around his home have had to be stepped up and speaks of the physical danger he faces in the city of Liverpool.

When Channel 4 News called at his home recently we saw no sign of any police patrols at his home.
Mr MacKenzie accepts that publishing the headline “The Truth” shortly after the disaster, and blaming Liverpool fans wrongly for causing it, was both wrong and a mistake but he claims:
“The people who have got away scot-free are South Yorkshire Police.”
In an article in this week’s Spectator magazine he goes on: “Now I know — you know, we all know — that the fans were right. But it took 23 years, two inquiries, one inquest and research into  400,000 documents, many of which were kept secret under the 30-year no-publication rule, to discover there was a vast cover-up by South Yorkshire Police about the disaster. Where does that leave me?”

Mr MacKenzie will claim the article that many other newspapers ran the same “copper-bottomed” story, and suggests motives for the Sun being singled out by a city:

“Liverpool fans didn’t turn on other media, only the Sun. That has always puzzled me. Was it picked out because the paper had always backed Thatcher, while the city had always been pro-Labour?”

But what is not clear is whether or not Mr MacKenzie can explain why he over-ruled his own staff to write that notorious headline and ignored the advice of the the very senior reporter who wrote the story in much more measured terms.

It is this which marks out the Sun’s coverage from that in other newspapers in the days after Hillsborough, and that headline has ensured that The Sun is boycotted by thousands across Merseyside to this day. Kelvin MacKenzie – and Kelvin MacKenzie alone – wrote that headline and did so against the express advice of reporters deeply involved in the story.

When I called on Mr MacKenzie last week he first appeared at his front door  in shorts and tee-shirt,  said he was writing his article at that time;  he was seated at a computer in a back room as I approached, visible through a small window in the door.

When Channel 4 news asked for an interview Mr MacKenzie told me to “f*** off and declined two subsequent on-camera invitations to explain why he did what he did, against the advice of his own journalists.


A robust response from South Yorkshire Police, which has told Channel 4 News: “it is well known that many media outlets ran similar stories at the time based on the same sources, but chose to treat them differently. Mr MacKenzie was responsible for the particular headline he chose to run with.”

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