1Timing counts for a lot, even if timing takes time. On the day a verdict was finally reached in the Hillsborough Inquest and the pitiful reputation of the South Yorkshire Police Force was dragged even deeper into the dirt, another law enforcement outfit with a similarly tarnished record, the Metropolitan Police Force, announced it was poised to wind down the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. It was as far back as April 1989 when 96 football fans lost their lives at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground; it was in 2007 when the four-year-old vanished without a trace from her family’s holiday hotel in Portugal. Neither case shares much other than the amount of headlines they have generated and the fact that both have threatened to challenge ‘The Mousetrap’ for longevity – nine years for Madeleine McCann and a staggering 27 for Hillsborough.

The Taylor Report into Hillsborough appeared as early as January 1990, just nine months after the tragedy. However, whilst instigated to establish the causes of the 96 deaths, it also had a wider remit for English football in general, covering such areas as terracing, the sale of alcohol within grounds, and crush barriers. The Taylor Report’s influence was far-reaching for football in this country, leading to all-seater stadia and the end of fans being fenced in to prevent pitch invasions and contain hooliganism. Its conclusion regarding the deaths was that the prime cause of the disaster was inadequate policing. The actual inquest into the lives lost recorded a verdict of accidental death in 1991 rather than unlawful killing and didn’t recommend charges of manslaughter be brought against the police officers who were pivotal to events, much to the dismay of the families involved.

When 20 years had passed, the dissatisfaction of bereaved families with nobody being held to account for events that day, as well as their awareness that vital documentary evidence had not been released to Lord Justice Taylor in 1989, led to the formation of the Hillsborough Independent Panel; backed by government support, the panel accessed previously-unavailable information and in 2012 concluded that Liverpool supporters were not responsible for the tragedy, contrary to the Sun’s accusations at the time.

Despite the conclusions of the panel eliciting public apologies from the relevant parties, those regarded as guilty remained unpunished and fresh demands for prosecutions of police officers on a variety of charges surfaced in the wake of the 2012 inquiry. Shortly after, the High Court quashed the verdict of the original inquest and obtained permission for a fresh inquest that began two years ago last month; when the jury reached its verdict today, all 96 deaths were found to be unlawful killings. Revelations of doctored statements by the South Yorkshire Police that have emerged in recent years had cast considerable doubt upon the original verdict, though the new verdict isn’t the end of a story that has spanned two-and-a half decades. The next stage surely has to constitute prosecutions against individual officers or even a charge of corporate manslaughter against South Yorkshire Police itself.

As for the sad saga of Madeleine McCann, the future seems less conclusive. If she is still alive, Madeleine will turn 13 in just over a couple of weeks from now; but there remains a large section of the media, both professional and social, convinced she is dead and that her blood is on the hands of her parents, Gerry and Kate. Inconclusive investigations by both Portuguese and British police, as well as private detectives, have thrown up endless speculation and false leads that have failed to establish any truth in what has become one of the twenty-first century’s great mysteries. The absence of evidence as to whether Madeleine is dead or alive, let alone any plausible murder suspects being put forward, is bound to keep the rumour mill in business when even Hillsborough has finally been put to bed.

The McCann case seems to be more a story of our times than Hillsborough, which is essentially a lingering legacy of another era altogether, as was the equally drawn-out Bloody Sunday Inquiry before it. The patent lies that were pedalled by both certain tabloid papers and the South Yorkshire Police in 1989 seem mild in comparison to the hysterical obsession of Fleet Street and Twitter with Madeleine McCann. Again, timing played its part. Following the high-profile kidnapping and murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne by a convicted child sex-offender in 2000, child abduction with the prospect of a paedophilic element was big news both for an industry desperate to combat plummeting sales and for the newest kid on the media block. Once Jimmy Savile became the Great British Bogeyman in 2012, the dead DJ could be linked to every child abduction or murder case of the past half-century, connecting individual and utterly unrelated stories to a bigger and far more salacious fantasy of institutionalised abuse allegedly stretching back decades.

The fake abduction of nine-year-old Shannon Matthews, staged less than a year after Madeleine McCann’s disappearance by her publicity-desperate mother, was symptomatic of an age in which the narcotic of fifteen-minute fame had polluted the thought processes of even the thickest people in the country and that this craving could encompass any beyond-the-pale stunt. Whereas Kate McCann was endlessly pilloried for not displaying her private grief in public – as has been compulsory ever since weeping Diana groupies besieged the gates of Kensington Palace in 1997– Karen Matthews shed the requisite tears; that hers were of the crocodile variety didn’t appear to alter the consensus that grief is no longer the province of those with a first-hand claim to it but is now something that has to be shared across the entire vicarious spectrum of contemporary communication.

The widespread belief that the public are being lied to by the powerful, whether police or politicians, can be attributed in part to the corruption and ineptitude of those institutions themselves, but it has become more entrenched in the national consciousness courtesy of social media, turning every cock-up or wilful deception into another conspiracy theory to occupy empty lives. Hillsborough may be on the brink of resolution at last, but Madeleine McCann is set to run and run, regardless of the damage done to those whose actual concern it still is.

© The Editor

11 thoughts on “TIME HEALS NO WOUNDS

  1. I completely agree with the last paragraph – that sums up the issues perfectly. We see a – what is the word I’m looking for? Duopoly? Contradiction? Not quite…anyway. On the one hand in the “Social Meeja” age it is much easier for the citizen to pass on and share vital knowledge of the State’s mis deeds and cover ups. I have no doubt whatsoever that reports of unsavoury behaviour by certain parties in Cologne and other places over the New Year would have been suppressed – but for social media spreading the information. On the other hand, social media provides a platform for every nutjob, radical and nasty ill infored key board warrior with no real life to pronounce themselves Immortal Leader. It is why I mostly confine my exploits on Twitter and Facebook to pictures of kittens. Mostly. There are other times when my study seems more like Barad-Dur , with its All Seeing Eye….

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  2. I have no doubt that the 96 dead at Hillsborough were quite innocent and, as such, their relatives deserve full disclosure of the events leading to their deaths. This has not yet happened and some of it never will. At least now those public authorities responsible for the post-event cock-ups and cover-ups are being seen in the glaring light of exposure.
    However, this should also all be seen in the context of the time. Well into the period of an unpopular government, certainly very unpopular with ‘the working class’, and quite fresh from the Miners’ Strike, where the police in general, and South Yorkshire police in particular, were seen as agents of that same government by their very robust tactics. Perhaps then it is no surprise that there was an established ‘atmosphere’ between such fans and such police – the incident that is Hillsborough provided an opportunity for both sides to take actions against the other, never imagining that they would acquire such historic status or later forensic investigation.
    As ever in these cases, the cover-up will prove more publicly damaging than the event, mainly because it further erodes confidence in those public agencies which should be held in a high level of earned esteem. It is only their habitual and institutionalised cover-up principle which led to the quarter-century of delay in the process.
    Of course, without the all-pervasive modern media, and more recent social media, this would never have happened anyway, the moment would have passed, the grieving would go away and the guilty would carry on with their lives too. We are often quick to condemn the media for intrusion but sometimes slow to recognise its value in aiding such exposure of real scandal.
    And, all the while, we still await the Chilcott Report on Iraq……..

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    1. “the incident that is Hillsborough provided an opportunity for both sides to take actions against the other”… Except that is not what happened. Only one side was guilty of any wrongdoing and that is the side that absolutely, definitely and completely should not have been.

      We’ll be dead by the time of Chilcot’s release. Probably be slipped out post Blair demise.

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  3. “As ever in these cases, the cover-up will prove more publicly damaging than the event […] ”

    And yet, as ever, these cover-ups will go on and on and on.

    Because in this day and age, no politician, business boss, doctor, local councillor, and all the other myriads of “public service employees” will *ever* be exposed by their compatriots in crime.

    Now, there is a *TRUE* oxymoron if ever there was one: “Public Service Employee”

    These people are paid for by us, every single penny of their monthly wage grabbed from our unwilling pockets, and then they dig into our income even further and line their solid pension nests with money I had hoped to lay by for a rainy day, or even for my own pension.

    Yet these same people are in no way answerable to us who are their paymasters. They are most definitely *only* answerable to their signed up compatriots who make the rules, “enforce” them in a very gentle manner, and make sure that no one at all loses a single penny, no matter how incompetent they may just turn out to be. None of them ever answer for their failures and not a single one of them ever seems to lose a penny of the massive pension pots which we have been forced to pay into through unwarranted, cruel and regressive taxation for most of our working lives.

    And yet, as I said at the very beginning, the cover-ups go on and on and on …

    Lamp posts and piano-wire often spring to mind.


    1. Another example occurred last week when the spelling test for schools was erroneously published on-line by some bungling official. The test was cancelled (at considerable sunk-cost) and ‘an investigation launched’, so said the Schools Minister, Nick Gibb.
      Maybe not piano-wire level, but what’s the betting that no-one is ever fired as a result ? I’d put a pound on it. But until they start getting fired for such incompetence, they’ll stay incompetent and the ‘investigations’ will continue to deliver the long-grass cover-ups at all levels.


  4. The forces that operated at the time of the Hillsborough massacre are the same forces that operate in the UK today. Don’t forget that thousands of disabled people have died at the hands of a government trying to bring about ‘welfare’ change without even monitoring the outcomes of those changes. The hypocrisy of Cameron whilst acknowledging the outcome but saying nothing about the South Yorkshire police, for example, tells us all we need to know.


  5. Truth

    Margaret Thatcher
    Bernard Ingram
    Tory Government
    Sheffield Wednesday FC
    Football Association
    The British Media
    Kelvin McKenzie
    South Yorkshire Police
    West Midlands Police
    Original Coroner
    Ambulance Services
    The Trolls who still write and harass today
    And the many public officials across the country who have perpetrated the lies and deceit

    Come on Theresa, time to get down to work and see Justice is done – or, of course, we have another cover up!


      1. Boris Johnson
        Jeremy Hunt
        Norman Bettison
        Tony Bliar
        Jack Straw

        can’t remember all of them

        What we have learned is that the establishment can indulge in cover up for 27 years. There is little/ no remorse. The apologies are meaningless because another cover up is and has been in operation for 6 years already – namely the deaths of disabled people as a result of policy changes – the establishment does not care, people are expendable in order that they maintain power – IT HAS TO STOP AND THE PEOPLE OF LIVERPOOL HAVE SHOWN A WAY TO DO IT – I WAS VERY TEARFUL AT THIS EVENING’S EVENT AT ST GEORGE’S HALL – I EVEN ENDORSED ANDY BURNHAM’S COMMENTS IN PARLIAMENT – I HATE THE LIES, THE PROPAGANDA AND THE CORRUPTION OF THE ELITES


  6. Lest we forget:

    October 2011 a gentleman also called David Cameron said: “The families of the Hillsborough tragedy are a blind man, in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there.” This cannot surely be the same person, can it?

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