Hillsborough Sun

A Liverpool fan holds up a poster calling on supporters to boycott the Sun in the wake of its Hillsborough coverage

Credit: Nick Potts/PA

Families of the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster are calling on the Sun to reveal the sources of a story in which it blamed Liverpool fans for causing the tragedy, in which 96 of the club's fans died.

The call, made by the chair of the Hillsborough Families Support Group Margaret Aspinall, comes as MPs prepare for a House of Commons debate today on the disclosure of public documents relating to the disaster.

The Sun article, published by the newspaper four days after the disaster and controversially headlined "THE TRUTH", claimed that drunken Liverpool fans had picked the pockets of victims, urinated on police, and attacked a policeman attempting to resuscitate a victim. The newspaper cited unnamed South Yorkshire police officers and a Tory MP as sources.

The story led to a boycott of the newspaper in Merseyside, which continues to this day, and vilification of its then-editor Kelvin McKenzie.

Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James died at the Hillsborough stadium and who is travelling to the House of Commons today ahead of the debate, told the Guardian that the Sun story had set public opinion into believing that version of events.

"That story, that our children were drunken yobs, came as we were grieving for their loss, and we had to defend their good names. It set people's minds, which you can still see even now, that the disaster was caused by the fans, not by the police losing control. That set the injustice in train, the real truth never came out at the inquest, and nobody in authority has ever been held to account.

"If we are now to discover the real truth, let the Sun tell us who gave them those lies which caused so much damage.

"If the Sun wants to make amends, they should reveal who it was, not allow their sources to hide behind anonymous briefings 22 years later, and help the families to understand what happened."

Today's Commons debate is the result of more than 100,000 people signing an e-petition calling for "full government disclosure and publication of all documents".

Earlier this year the Information Commissioner ruled that the government should release public documents relating to the disaster after a freedom of information request made by the BBC, and criticised the Cabinet Office of delays in making the documents available.

The Sun was not the only newspaper to print allegations about victims being pickpocketed by fans and attacks on police officers. The Daily Star and the Daily Mirror also ran stories with similar claims, but the Sun was singled out over its presentation of the story.

News International, which publishes the Sun, declined to comment.

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