This story has been reproduced from today's media. It does not necessarily represent the position of Liverpool Football Club.
After 23 years, the real story of what happened - and the subsequent cover-up by the police - have finally come to light.
Throughout a momentous day at Liverpool's Anglican cathedral for the families of the 96 people who died so needlessly at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough football ground, one phrase dominated above all else: the truth. These were the words most infamously abused by that headline in the Sun, above stories we now know, in extraordinarily shocking detail, were fed by the South Yorkshire police to deflect their own culpability for the disaster on to the innocent victims.
Margaret Aspinall, whose son James, then 18, died at what should have been a joyful day out, an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in spring sunshine, said the families had been forced to fight, for 23 years, for just that: the truth. Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said that although the families' loss would never fade, she was "delighted" at the unequivocal, "profound" apology given for Hillsborough's savage failings by David Cameron.
The Hillsborough Independent Panel, chaired by the bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, had inspected 450,000 documents generated by the police, Sheffield Wednesday and all other bodies responsible, and delivered its remarkable 395-page report
Some of what happened to cause the disaster, and the police's subsequent blame-shifting, has been exposed over these long decades. But the depth of what the families call a cover-up, in particular the deliberate, relentless South Yorkshire police campaign to avoid its own responsibilities and craft the false case against the supporters, was still startling.
In a concerted campaign begun even as the dead were lying in a temporary mortuary at Hillsborough itself - led, the panel found, by the chief constable, Peter Wright - the South Yorkshire police marshalled their story that drunken supporters or those without tickets had caused the disaster. The victims, most younger than 30, many of them teenagers, the youngest aged 10, had their blood tested for alcohol levels. This was "an exceptional decision", the panel said, for which it found "no rationale". One of the new revelations from this extraordinary process, in which all the organisations released to the panel their internal documents relating to Hillsborough, was that where victims had no alcohol in their blood, the police then checked to find if they had criminal records.
The report, substantially authored by professor Phil Scraton of Queen's University, Belfast, and unanimously agreed by the panel of eight experts, found there was "no evidence ... to verify the serious allegations of exceptional levels of drunkenness, ticketlessness or violence among Liverpool fans".
The report found that even as the family members, many of them parents stricken with the loss of their children, were plunged into the most dreadful of nightmares, Wright was meeting his police federation in a Sheffield restaurant to prepare "a defence" and "a rock-solid story". The secretary of the South Yorkshire police federation branch, constable Paul Middup, according to the minutes cited by the panel, told the restaurant meeting before Wright turned up: "The chief constable had said the truth could not come from him, but had given the secretary a totally free hand and supported him," as had many senior officers.
The meeting, at the Pickwick restaurant in Sheffield, was held on the morning of 19 April 1989, just four days after the disaster. It was the day that Kelvin MacKenzie's Sun newspaper splashed its headline "The Truth" over lies fed to it, via Whites Press agency, by, the panel found, four senior South Yorkshire police officers. Middup was encouraged to continue this police campaign of defaming Liverpool supporters for supposed drunkenness and misbehaviour and "to get the message - togetherness - across to the force".
The panel's report sustained the allegation made in parliament - by the Labour Merseyside MP Maria Eagle - that the orchestrated changing of junior officers' statements by senior South Yorkshire police officers amounted to a "black propaganda unit".
The officers' statements, presented as official police accounts to the subsequent inquiry by Lord Justice Taylor, were changed to delete criticism of the police themselves on the day, and, largely, emphasise misbehaviour by supporters. The panel found that the operation went as deep and extensive as 116 of 164 statements being amended "to remove or alter comments unfavourable to South Yorkshire police".
The police had claimed this was done only to remove "conjecture" and "opinion" from the statements, but the panel had no doubt the operation, to craft a case rather than deliver truthful police accounts, went further.
"It was done to remove criticism of the police," Scraton said.
This propaganda, generated as family members wept in houses with suddenly empty bedrooms, did not convince Taylor. He ruled as quickly as August 1989 that the police stories of fan drunkenness and misbehaviour were false, and criticised the police for advancing the claims. Taylor exposed that Sheffield Wednesday's football ground was unsafe in crucial respects, that the Football Association had selected it as the venue for its prestigious match without even checking if Hillsborough had a valid safety certificate, which it did not.
In that landscape of neglect, it was the mismanagement of the crowd by South Yorkshire police, commanded by an inexperienced Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, which was "the prime cause" of the disaster. The police lost control outside the ground, where 24,000 Liverpool fans had to be funnelled through just 23 turnstiles, so Duckenfield ordered a large exit gate to be opened and a large number of people to be allowed in. His "blunder of the first magnitude", according to Taylor, was the failure to close off the tunnel that led to the already overcrowded central "pens" - a dreadful word for a sports venue - of the Leppings Lane terrace.
That much was established by the Taylor report, yet the police, undaunted, repeated their claims to the subsequent inquest. Its procedure was marked by the coroner's decision not to take evidence of what happened after 3.15pm on the day of the disaster, thereby excluding an emergency response the panel found to have been chaotic. The finding that 41 of the 96 who died could possibly have been saved had the police and ambulance service done their jobs decently is damning of those bodies and, Aspinall said, difficult for the families to contemplate.
The attorney general, Dominic Grieve, is now, in the light of the panel's report, to consider whether to make an application to the high court for the inquest verdict of accidental death to be quashed and a new inquest held.
There may be prosecutions too, after all these years, of Sheffield Wednesday, South Yorkshire police and Sheffield city council, which failed in its duty to oversee safety of the football ground. Trevor Hicks, the president of the HFSG, both of whose teenage daughters, Sarah and Victoria, died in the Leppings Lane crush, said they will pursue all legal redress: "The truth is out today," Hicks said. "Tomorrow is for justice."
Aspinall said she felt a profound sense of outrage and injustice at the campaign she and other families have been forced to fight, especially as the real truth was known to authorities all along.
"What the families have been put through for 23 years was a disgrace, to put the families through this much pain." She complained that while the families had to find the money to pay their own costs through years of legal processes, the South Yorkshire police force, individual officers and other public bodies had theirs paid by the taxpayer.
"Yet," she said, "they were liars and we were the truthful ones."
Jones, sitting calmly in the cathedral from which he performs his duties to the diocese of Liverpool, said that as a pastor he was "committed to a just and fair world". He added: "That goes to the heart of our work as a panel: we are looking for truth, and justice."
And there was that word again. After so many years, so much pain, so long and terrible a battle waged by families who would not give up for their loved ones, it has been finally reclaimed. The truth.