25 Apr 2014

Hillsborough: government probes ‘sickening’ Wikipedia edits

The Cabinet Office says it believes “one or two” individuals are behind the “sickening” amendments made to the Wikipedia page on the Hillsborough disaster.

Anonymous alterations to the Wikipedia page about the tragedy were made from computers on Whitehall’s secure intranet, the Liverpool Echo reported on Thursday.

The newspaper said revisions to the online encyclopaedia began five years ago on the 20th anniversary of the tragedy, and again in 2012.

The Cabinet Office said the amendments were “sickening”. In a strongly-worded statement issued on Friday evening, it said “The amendments made to Wikipedia are sickening. This behaviour is in complete contravention of the Civil Service Code. It is entirely unacceptable.”

‘Exhausting every option’

Among the reported amendments to the Hillsborough section was an insertion saying “Blame Liverpool fans”, and two years go the phrase “You’ll never walk alone” was altered to “You’ll never walk again” and later “You’ll never w*** alone.”

A spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office said: “At this time, we have no reason to suspect that the Hillsborough edits involve any particular department, nor more than one or two individuals in 2009 and 2012.

“As the first incident happened five years ago and there are hundreds of thousands of people on the Government’s network, it may prove challenging to identify who was involved. But we are exhausting every option. Anyone with information should contact the Cabinet Office.”

‘Incredibly sad’

Margaret Aspinall, from the Hillsborough Family Support Group, told the Echo the revelations had been deeply upsetting.

She said: “I don’t even know how to react, it’s just so sad. I hear something like that and it upsets me a great deal, it makes me incredibly sad. I’m glad somebody has found out about it but I’m frightened to be honest that we haven’t known until now.”

The Echo claimed the entries were made from IP addresses used by computers in government departments, including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Treasury and the Office of the Solicitor General.

Further changes included altering the description of a statue of Liverpool’s renowned former manager Bill Shankly on the Anfield Wikipedia page from “He made the people happy” to “He made a wonderful lemon drizzle cake”.

A government computer was also reportedly used to change the phrase “This is Anfield”, which is in the players’ tunnel at the club’s stadium, to “This is a S***hole”.

A description of the Hillsborough memorial at Anfield was also changed to include “nothing for the victims of the Heysel stadium disaster”, referring to the match in Brussels in 1985 between Liverpool and Juventus at which 39 people died.

Hillsborough Inquests

Sheila Coleman, from the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, said it was “very saddening” that the changes came from within government and called for an investigation.

She told the Echo: “We’re still in the inquests and we’ve sat listening to the most heartbreaking accounts of that day, and then you hear about things like this. It’s absolutely appalling, disgraceful.”

New inquests are being held into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans who were crushed to death during the April 1989 FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough in Sheffield.

They were ordered after new evidence revealed by the Independent Panel Report led to the quashing of the original 1991 inquest verdicts in the high court in 2012.