Lawyers acting for Kelvin MacKenzie have written to South Yorkshire Police seeking an apology for the circumstances that have led to his ‘personal vilification for decades’. Writing in tomorrow’s Spectator, the former Sun editor speaks out for the first time in detail about his fateful decision to print the now infamous ‘THE TRUTH’ headline in the red-top the day after the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.
The terms of the apology are to be debated, but MacKenzie tells of police patrols being increased around his house and the physical danger he faces in the city of Liverpool. Kelvin admits that he was wrong, ‘but the people who have got away scot-free are South Yorkshire Police.’ He is seeking an apology for ‘the lies their officers told’.
‘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?
…There can be no doubt I have been deeply affected by the affair. I am not a victim, clearly, certainly not in the way the dead or their families are. But I have suffered collateral damage. It would be unwise for me to go to certain areas of the north-west on business. Even the other day at Waterloo station a portly, balding chap pushing a bike shouted ‘Liar!’ at me.’
Talking more broadly about Hillsborough, MacKenzie highlights the countless other publications that ran the same ‘copper-bottomed’ story, and suggests motives for the Sun being singled out by a city ‘I (and the paper I edited) had nothing but warm thoughts about prior to that ghastly day’.
‘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?’
With the police version of an event once again in the spotlight this week thanks to the Andrew Mitchell’s ‘Gate-gate’ saga, perhaps the embattled Chief Whip could take a leaf from MacKenzie’s book. If he believes the police are wrong, time to call the lawyers.