Kelvin MacKenzie wants Hillsborough apology from police

Kelvin MacKenzie Liverpool fans have boycotted The Sun for 23 years

Ex-Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie wants South Yorkshire Police to apologise for the "vilification" he received in the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy.

His lawyers have contacted the force asking for an apology, the BBC's Ross Hawkins reported.

Mr MacKenzie printed a front page story about Liverpool fans, shortly after the 1989 disaster, headlined "The Truth".

A police spokesman said Mr MacKenzie was "responsible for the particular headline he chose to run with".

Ninety-six football fans died as a result of the tragedy in Sheffield.

In an article for the Spectator to be published on Thursday, MacKenzie writes: "I hope that after 23 years we can all agree on the truth."

Agency copy

People in Liverpool boycotted The Sun after the article claimed fans pickpocketed the dead and urinated on police.

Analysis

This is a debate about blame.

Kelvin MacKenzie suggests he should not bear it alone. He has said sorry before for the Sun's coverage.

Now he thinks he is owed an apology by the police. He blames police officers for telling lies to a news agency about the conduct of Liverpool fans.

He says other editors also believed their story.The police and people of Liverpool will judge whether they are convinced by his case.

The Hillsborough Independent Inquiry report, which was published two weeks ago, said there was no evidence to support the allegations in the paper.

It stated: "The documents disclosed to the panel show that the origin of these serious allegations was a local Sheffield press agency informed by several SYP officers, an SYP Police Federation spokesperson and a local MP.

"They also demonstrate how the SYP Police Federation, supported informally by the SYP chief constable, sought to develop and publicise a version of events that focused on several police officers' allegations of drunkenness, ticketlessness and violence among a large number of Liverpool fans."

Mr MacKenzie, who says he has been "deeply affected by the affair", adding that he is not a victim but has "suffered collateral damage".

'Copper-bottomed'

Were he to visit Liverpool he would "literally be in mortal danger", he writes.

Describing the circumstances that led him to publish the false claims, he said a "trap was sprung" when he was handed copy from a reputable news agency.

The story was sourced from four senior South Yorkshire police officers, he says, and "copper-bottomed" by a Conservative MP.

"I thought nothing of running the story with the headline 'The Truth'," he writes.

"There was not a doubt in my mind - and I was by no means the only man in Fleet St who believed the police's story."

His piece concludes: "This week my lawyer, Ian Rosenblatt, sent a letter to South Yorkshire Police explaining that the lies their officers told to the news agency had led to my personal vilification for decades and that on that basis I was seeking an apology in terms to be agreed between us. I hope that after 23 years we can all agree on the truth."

A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said the force "awaits Mr MacKenzie's letter with interest".

"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," he said.

"Mr MacKenzie was responsible for the particular headline he chose to run with."

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