Probe as Whitehall computers linked to Hillsborough slurs

Tributes at the Hillsborough 25th Anniversary Memorial Service in Sheffield
Tributes at the Hillsborough 25th Anniversary Memorial Service in Sheffield
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The Cabinet Office is making “urgent inquiries” following claims that government computers were used to make offensive and inflammatory comments about the Hillsborough disaster.

Anonymous alterations to the Wikipedia page about the tragedy were made from computers on Whitehall’s secure intranet, the Liverpool Echo said.

The newspaper said revisions to the online encyclopaedia began five years ago on the 20th anniversary of the disaster, and again in 2012.

Among the reported amendments to the Hillsborough section was an insertion saying “Blame Liverpool fans”, and two years ago the phrase “You’ll never walk alone” was altered to “You’ll never walk again”.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “We thank the Liverpool Echo for bringing this to our attention.

“This is a matter that we will treat with the utmost seriousness and are making urgent inquiries.

“No one should be in any doubt of the Government’s position regarding the Hillsborough disaster and its support for the families of the 96 victims and all those affected by the tragedy.”

Margaret Aspinall, from the Hillsborough Family Support Group, told the Echo that the revelations had been deeply upsetting.

She said: “I don’t even know how to react, it’s just so sad. I hear something like that and it upsets me a great deal, it makes me incredibly sad.

“I’m glad somebody has found out about it but I’m frightened to be honest that we haven’t known until now.”

The Echo claimed the entries were made from IP addresses used by computers in government departments, including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Treasury and the Office of the Solicitor General.

Further changes included altering the description of a statue of Liverpool’s former manager Bill Shankly on the Anfield Wikipedia page from “He made the people happy” to “He made a wonderful lemon drizzle cake”.

A Government computer was also reportedly used to change the phrase “This is Anfield”, which is in the players’ tunnel at the club’s stadium, to “This is a S***hole”.

A description of the Hillsborough memorial at Anfield was also changed to include “nothing for the victims of the Heysel stadium disaster”, referring to the European Cup final in Brussels in 1985 between Liverpool and Juventus at which 39 people died.

Sheila Coleman, from the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, said it was “very saddening” that the changes came from within government and called for an investigation.

She told the Echo: “We’re still in the inquests and we’ve sat listening to the most heartbreaking accounts of that day, and then you hear about things like this.

“It’s absolutely appalling, disgraceful.”

Wikimedia UK chief executive Jon Davies said the company was “appalled by such vandalism”.

But he added: “Our community have systems in place to deal with such incidents. In this case none of the offensive comments were up for more than a couple of hours, and most were removed within minutes.”

The revelations emerged as the new inquests continued into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans who were crushed to death during the April 1989 FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough in Sheffield.

The inquests, in Warrington, are hearing a succession of “pen portraits” as each bereaved family gives brief statements about the loved ones they lost in the tragedy.