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Dec 31, 2012

Hillsborough smear MP dies

The former Conservative MP who played a role in smearing Liverpool fans after the Hillsborough disaster has died.

Sir Irvine Patnick was a key source for a 1989 story in the Sun newspaper which made false allegations about supporter behaviour on the day of the tragedy under the headline "The Truth".

The politician, who was MP for Sheffield Hallam between 1987 and 1997 and was knighted in 1994, died on Sunday aged 83.

There had been calls for him to be stripped of his knighthood when his role in the Sun's notorious coverage of the disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans died, was highlighted by an independent report published in September.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel's findings cleared fans of any blame for the tragedy, which happened at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989, and revealed the extent to which the emergency services attempted to cover up their own culpability.

It also found that the source for the Sun's story was the Sheffield news agency Whites, which reported conversations with South Yorkshire Police and Patnick.

Following the release of the report, Patnick said he was "deeply and sincerely sorry" about his role in smearing Liverpool supporters. He said he had passed on police information that was "inaccurate, misleading and plain wrong".

A statement issued to the BBC by his family read: "Sir Irvine Patnick OBE, died peacefully on December 30, 2012, aged 83, in Sheffield. He was a much loved husband of Lynda and father of Suzanne and Matthew. He'll be sadly missed by his brothers and by all his family and friends."

Two investigations into police behaviour around the disaster have been launched since the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report. The original inquest verdicts of accidental death were quashed at the High Court on December 19, leading campaign groups to hope that fresh inquests will help bring to justice those responsible for the tragedy.

Shelia Coleman, of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, said Patnick's death showed that the fresh investigations must take place as quickly as possible.

She told the Liverpool Echo: "Quite simply, Irvine Patnick's death serves as a timely reminder of why it's absolutely imperative that all enquiries into the Hillsborough disaster and the subsequent cover-up take place as swiftly as possible.

"Otherwise, we are not going to be able to hold people responsible for their role in the scandal. It needs to be remembered that this man vilified Liverpool and was part of a lying machine which shamefully damaged the reputation of those fans.

"The purpose of his death should be to put increasing pressure on the authorities to ensure that investigations are not delayed any further so that people can be held accountable."

Walton MP Steve Rotheram agreed that Patnick's death showed that people must be brought to justice as quickly as possible.

"It is nearly 24 years since the disaster, and the families now won't be able to see some of the perpetrators face justice," he said. "Therefore it's really important that fresh inquests start work as swiftly as possible.

"I don't know if it's possible to have a knighthood revoked posthumously, but the sooner we can reach a conclusion the better for everyone involved."

According to the Cabinet Office, a person cannot be stripped of their knighthood posthumously, as the honour effectively ceases to exist when they die.

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