15/03/2012 10:45 GMT | Updated 15/03/2012 14:38 GMT

Hillsborough Files Show Margaret Thatcher Was Told Of 'Drunk Liverpool Fans'

Margaret Thatcher was told that a Merseyside Police officer blamed "drunken Liverpool fans" for the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, according to leaked files.

The documents leaked to the BBC, show that four days after the tragedy, a member of Thatcher's No 10 policy unit met senior Merseyside officers who told her that large numbers of Liverpool fans turning up without tickets had been a "key factor" in what happened.

The disaster saw 96 people crushed to death on overcrowded terraces in Sheffield during an FA Cup semi-final match in April 1989.

There was deep anger in Liverpool after South Yorkshire Police, who were responsible for policing the game, blamed Liverpool fans for "turning up drunk, late, and without tickets" for the tragedy.

The government, which was told to release the files by the information commissioner, has agreed to do so, but it appears that there has been a further delay in their publication. Ministers insist they want the files published in an orderly fashion, with the families of those killed in the disaster seeing them first.

The campaign to get the files released saw one of the first e-petitions to garner more than 100,000 votes, triggering an impassioned debate in the Commons.

According to the BBC, a letter sent to Thatcher marked "Merseyside Police views on Hillsborough", revealed that senior officers in Liverpool had concluded that Liverpool fans had arrived "late and drunk" to the game that day.

Four days after the disaster one of Thatcher's advisors met the former chief constable of Merseyside Police, the late Sir Kenneth Oxford, who told the advisor that large numbers of Liverpool fans had turned up without tickets, and that one unnamed officer had said that "drunken Liverpool fans had caused this disaster."

Subsequent meetings of the Cabinet in the days after the disaster heard that there was a strong linkage of drinking and "latent violence", but that the design of the stadium had been the main contributor toward the disaster.

They also heard how Sir Kenneth Oxford had expressed concerns that the Anfield stadium was being turned into "a shrine" for the dead fans.

Margaret Aspinall, whose 18 year-old son James was killed at Hillsborough, told The World at One on BBC Radio 4:

"We always knew, going back as far as 1989, that there was a cover-up around Hillsborough."

"I find it rather appalling really. What I have seen so far - senior officers of the Merseyside police saying what they've said, I find rather appalling and a disgrace. One officer there has the cheek to turn around and say they had made Anfield into a shrine.

"Ninety-six lives, and he was uneasy about it being made into a shrine. People who were there that day, the survivors, the fans, all needed somewhere to go to show respects. He was ashamed that was made into a shrine. How appalling is that. What will the fans think when they hear all this?"

"It doesn't surprise me in the sense, I'm surprised at the content of it, but it doesn't surprise me that this was going on behind closed doors."

A government spokesman said: "We cannot comment on leaked documents. The Government has confirmed its commitment to full transparency about the Hillsborough disaster through full public disclosure.

"All government papers have been shared with the Hillsborough Independent Panel. The Government is happy for all the papers, including Cabinet papers, to be released as soon as the Panel so decides, in consultation with the families.

"We expect them to be shared with the Hillsborough families first and then to the wider public.”

Labour MPs Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram said in a joint statement: "Hillsborough and its aftermath will go down one of the greatest domestic injustices of the twentieth century. Not only did 96 people die in the most distressing circumstances imaginable, witnessed by family, friends and fellow supporters, but those same people were then falsely blamed by the authorities whose job it was to serve and protect them.

"The only consolation for the families is that, finally, the full truth is beginning to emerge. We won't stop until it has and we won't allow partial leaks to distract the Panel from its vital work or skew the presentation of events a certain way."