THE JOURNALIST who wrote a now-infamous story for the Sun suggesting drunk Liverpool FC fans urinated on police and stole from victims during the Hillsborough disaster has said he was "aghast" at the way his story was presented in the paper, and insisted that editor Kelvin MacKenzie was personally responsible for the paper's coverage.
Veteran reporter Harry Arnold told the BBC that what he had written was "balanced and fair" account of "allegations" made about some fans as the tragedy, in which 96 people died, unfolded.
However, when his story appeared on the front page of the paper four days after the fateful FA Cup semi final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest it had the headline 'The Truth'. Below it were three sub-heads claiming fans picked the pockets of victims, urinated on police and beat up an officer who was giving the kiss of life.
In a documentary, Hillsborough: Searching for the Truth, to be screened on the BBC this weekend Arnold said, not for the first time, that MacKenzie wrote the headline himself.
"The reason I know that is I was about to leave the newsroom when I saw him drawing up the front page," he said. "When I saw the headline 'The Truth' I was aghast, because that wasn't what I'd written."
"I'd never used the words 'The Truth'... I'd merely written, I hoped and I still believe, in a balanced and fair way."
Arnold said he had tried to reason with MacKenzie, telling him that there was no way of knowing if the allegations were true, but his complaints were brushed off.
"I walked away thinking, well I'm not happy with the situation," he said. "But the fact is reporters don't argue with an editor. And in particular, you don't argue with an editor like Kelvin MacKenzie."
It is not the first time the story of MacKenzie's folly has been rehearsed in public. In the book Stick it Up Your Punter - the Rise and Fall of the Sun, Peter Chippendale and Chris Horrie wrote: "As MacKenzie's layout was seen by more and more people, a collective shudder ran through the office (but) MacKenzie's dominance was so total there was nobody left in the organisation who could rein him in except Murdoch."
But there was little sympathy for Arnold on Twitter, where actor Mark Moraghan described him as a "self-serving coward" for refusing to challenge MacKenzie.
Last year MacKenzie admitted that he wished that he had handled his paper's coverage of the tragedy differently, and indirectly insulted Arnold by suggesting that the story had been based on accounts from local news organisations and journalists from Liverpool.
Official papers into the tragedy will be released on Wednesday, more than 23 years after it happened. ·