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MacKenzie wants Hillsborough apology

Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, whose newspaper's infamous 'The Truth' headline in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster led to it being boycotted across Liverpool, now wants an apology from South Yorkshire Police.

• The Sun admits 'terrible mistake'
• PM apologises for Hillsborough injustice

MacKenzie was responsible for the front-page headline above a story which claimed that drunken Liverpool fans had pickpocketed victims of the tragedy and urinated on police officers.

After the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report on the disaster, published earlier this month, absolved Liverpool fans of any blame and revealed a huge cover-up by police, MacKenzie apologised for the headline.

In 2006, he was reported to have said: "I wasn't sorry then, and I'm not sorry now." However, as pressure mounted after the report's publication, he issued a statement in which he said the headline should have read 'The Lies'.

Now the Spectator has revealed that MacKenzie is demanding an apology from South Yorkshire Police and believes printing the force's version of what happened at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest was responsible for his "personal vilification".

In a Spectator article to be published next week, he writes: "Now I know - you know, we all know - that the fans were right.

"But it took 23 years, two inquiries, one inquest and research into 400,000 documents, many of which were kept secret under the 30-year no-publication rule, to discover there was a vast cover-up by South Yorkshire Police about the disaster. Where does that leave me?"

MacKenzie said other newspapers had run similar articles, and was quoted as questioning whether the Sun had been singled out in Liverpool "because the paper had always backed [Margaret] Thatcher while the city was always pro-Labour".

He claimed he and the paper "had nothing but warm thoughts" about Liverpool prior to the day of the disaster, saying he had suffered "collateral damage" from what happened and would be "in mortal danger" were he to visit Liverpool.

MacKenzie said he had trusted the force's version of events, and had been "by no means the only man in Fleet Street who believed the police's story".

He explained that the copy behind the Sun story had come from a news agency and been sourced from four senior South Yorkshire police officers and was also "copper-bottomed" by a Conservative Member of Parliament.

And he wrote that Ian Roseblatt, his lawyer, had contacted South Yorkshire Police, "explaining that the lies their officers told to the news agency had led to my personal vilification for decades and that on that basis I was seeking an apology in terms to be agreed between us". I hope that after 23 years we can all agree on the truth."

A police spokesman said Mackenzie was "responsible for the particular headline he chose to run with".

Ninety-six Liverpool fans were killed in a crush on the Leppings Lane terraces of Sheffield Wednesday's ground, and the panel's report detailed an orchestrated campaign by police to deflect the blame for what had happened onto supporters.