As many of you will know I have an active interest in football-related history. My specific area of interest is the 1958 Munich Air Disaster , but I have researched the Hillsborough Disaster within the social and cultural history of sport-related disasters. Both are linked by football & the tragic loss of life but they both have their own narrative of a search for justice AND truth. In the last 24 hours the 96 deaths caused by the Hillsborough Disaster, 1989 were found to be unlawful deaths and fans have been exonerated. Justice and truth have prevailed but the shadow of lies fall long and hard.
Sadly the story of the Munich Air Disaster has it's own unresolved battle for justice and truth. German aviation officials lay the blame of the crash on the plane's pilot Captain James Thain. He was accused of not de-icing the plane's wings and 'ice on the wings' was officially reported as the cause of the crash. This in fact was not the truth and Captain Thain was not to blame. The plane crashed because of slush on the runway and it took Thain and his family many years to get this fact acknowledged- but even with the truth, no 'justice' was had.
New evidence regarding the danger associated with slush on runways began to come to light in the late 50s & earlier 60s and Thain began to lobby his MPs. Finally, Harold Wilson, the then prime minister, raised the issue in parliament and a new British hearing into the crash was announced. The hearing cleared Thain of all blame, but the German inquiry still refused to amend their now discredited ‘ice on the wing’ judgment. Thain’s 'premature' death at 54 was attributed by many to the stress of trying to clear his name. Regardless of ‘slush on the runway’ being widely acknowledged as the actual cause of the accident, the ‘ice on the wing’ theory still persisted and persists even today. Truth does not always bring justice. Thain never flew after Munich, his pilot licence was not renewed and he was sacked by BEA on a company policy technicality.