A jury hearing inquests into Britain's worst-ever sporting disaster, the 1989 Hillsborough football stadium crush, says the 96 Liverpool football fans who died were "unlawfully killed", with police failures to blame for the tragedy.

Following a 27-year-long campaign by relatives of the victims, a verdict on Tuesday said the deaths during an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest was "due to crushing... following the admission of a large number of supporters to the stadium through exit gates".

It endorsed statements saying there were "errors or omissions" in police planning, policing on the day of the match, and the action of commanding officers, which had all "caused or contributed" to the events that led to the deaths.

After a 27-year wait, the court in Warrington absolved Liverpool fans of any role in the Hillsborough disaster [Reuters]

By a majority of seven to two, jurors were satisfied that "those who died in the disaster were unlawfully killed".

They agreed that Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, whose home ground is Hillsborough, and stadium managers and contractors were also at fault over the facilities, safety and match planning at the stadium.

"The force failed the victims and failed their families," Chief Constable David Crompton said in a video statement. "We will now take time to carefully reflect on the implications of today's findings."

Fans not to blame

The verdict, which follows a two-year coroner's inquest into Britain's biggest sporting disaster, said the behaviour of fans did not contribute to the deaths.

Several dozen relatives who had gathered outside the court hugged each other and sang You'll Never Walk Alone, the Liverpool football club anthem.

Two criminal investigations linked to the coroner's inquest are ongoing, prosecutors and a police watchdog said.

South Yorkshire Police, which covers Sheffield, apologised to the families and admitted it "got the policing catastrophically wrong".

For many years, officers from South Yorkshire Police and some British media outlets had claimed drunkenness among fans had contributed to the disaster.

The Sun tabloid published a front-page story headlined "The Truth" days after the tragedy, saying Liverpool fans were to blame, prompting a mass boycott of the paper on Merseyside.

"Justice for the 96. Justice for all," the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, one of the main campaign groups founded by the families, said on Twitter and Facebook. "Thanks to everyone who supported the HJC."

Relatives sang 'You'll Never Walk Alone' after the jury delivered its verdict [Reuters]

Source: Agencies