James O'Brien is Leading Britain's Conversation.
23 December 2016, 16:38
Shelagh Fogarty has been covering the Hillsborough story since the day it happened and in November, she conducted this remarkable interview with the policeman accused of orchestrating a cover-up of what really happened.
In an extended, emotive interview that really held retired senior cop Sir Norman Bettison to account, Shelagh tried to get across why the families of the 96 victims were so upset at his new book.
Looking back at the end of the year, Shelagh says: "The Hillsborough Disaster happened on Saturday April 15th 1989.
Even by the end of the following day it was already clear to me that some dark, suspicious things were accompanying its immediate aftermath.
I was just 23 and working at BBC Radio Merseyside at the time. As the scale of It dawned on us, a kind of triage system was used as Liverpool fans in their hundreds came to the station to be heard. I greeted them one by one and listened to their horrifying stories. They already knew they were being lied about, first by South Yorkshire Police, then by newspapers. They already knew they were being blamed for the deaths of their friends. No ambulances, little cooperation from police, little or no dignity. All on live television.
By the evening of Sunday 16th I knew the fans had not forced the gate, it was opened on police orders. I knew dead children had their blood alcohol tested as grief stricken parents drove across the Penines to identify their bodies. A week before the tragedy, the same fans had called the station phone in to complain about ticket numbers and allocation. They said it wasn't safe. Nobody listened.
Fast forward to 2012 and after a gut-wrenching 23 year battle, the country was forced to listen to them as the facts of Hillsborough were finally, and still not fully, revealed. David Cameron's apology to the families in the House of Commons was a moment I will never forget. Not justice yet, but truth.
In April this year, the final vindication came. New, individual inquests cleared the fans definitively of any blame and found a shameful litany of lies and negligence on the part of several organisations, not least South Yorkshire Police.
Even as the Inquests were being heard the force contrived to continue to implicate the fans. Surely the findings of the Inquest jury would end this decades old libel. But no, Sir Norman Bettison, former SYP officer who went on to be Chief Constable on Merseyside, said within hours of the verdicts that the fans behaviour contributed to the disaster. Not bad planning, not the wrong man leading normal match day crowd control, not an unsafe stadium. The fans. The pesky fans. It was like blaming snow for an avalanche. No snow, no avalanche. No fans, no tragedy.
This is my interview with Sir Norman Bettison on the publication of his book about the disaster."