UK & World News
Hillsborough Families Condemn Alcohol 'Lies'
The families of the 96 Liverpool fans killed at Hillsborough have condemned as "disgraceful" plans by senior police officers to argue that alcohol played a part in the deaths when new inquests open next month.
Lawyers for the South Yorkshire Police officers in charge at Hillsborough told a pre-inquest hearing last week that former chief inspector David Duckenfield, and former inspectors Roger Marshall and Roger Greenwood, would say "drunkeness ... contributed significantly to the disaster".
The role of alcohol in the deaths has always been hugely contentious.
The police claimed immediately after the fatal crush on the Leppings Lane terrace in April 1989 that drinking had been a factor, but Lord Justice Taylor dismissed the allegations in his official inquiry.
Margaret Aspinall, chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, told Sky News the fact alcohol would again be raised showed how "low" the former officers were willing to sink.
"It is absolutely a disgrace. If that is their only defence that they have to use that then that says an awful lot to me," she said.
"[They can] argue it again if they want to, but I can say to them they will not win on that. As far as I am concerned drink had nothing to do with it, and it is a disgrace that they are prepared to put these witnesses the fans who might come forward to throw that again at our fans.
"They are going to put them through all this again, for me you cannot sink any lower."
Mrs Aspinall's comments come as details of the 25th memorial service for those who died were announced, with organisers urging people to book their tickets early for what may be the largest ever Hillsborough service.
The memorial will take place on April 15, in the third week of the new inquests scheduled to begin on March, a coincidence that will bring added poignancy.
Around 30,000 people attended the 20th anniversary event, a figure that may be exceeded this year.
Free tickets are available from Liverpool Football Club with a maximum of four per applicant, and must be ordered before March 31.
"Every year is the same for the families and those fans who survived, but I think there will be a lot more interest in the service because the inquest will have started," said Mrs Aspinall.
"We hope that is going to be the beginning of the end for the families, and we will be praying for those 96 people on the day.
"You can never know about the turnout, we have always had at least 10,000 people, on the 20th anniversary there were 30,000 and we have had a lot of interest in this for the 25th, so it will hopefully be quite full."
Mrs Aspinall said she was hopeful that the new inquests, ordered after the initial verdicts of accidental death were quashed last year, would finally deliver justice for those who died.
'We did get the inquest verdicts quashed, that was a brilliant day, but now we are hoping that we will the right verdict, but we just don't know and we always have to be on the side of caution.
"So many things we have gone forward with we thought we're getting somewhere and had the doors slammed in our face at the last hurdle. This time we hope that doesn't happen."
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