The Sun newspaper has printed a front-page apology to the victims and families of the Hillsborough disaster for its role in the cover-up.

The paper has said it is "profoundly sorry" for its controversial The Truth story, which claimed Liverpool fans pick-pocketed and urinated on the dead and attacked police attempting to give the kiss of life.

The claims, which later turned out to be completely fabricated, repulsed the people of Liverpool and lead to a Mersyeside boycott of the paper which still exists to this day.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel revealed yesterday that the story originally came from Sheffield's Whites News agency with the help of MP Irvine Patnick and senior police officers.

Current editor of the Sun Dominic Mohan has now said the paper is "profoundly sorry" anout its coverage of the 1989 disaster and it feels "deeply ashamed".

Mohan said: "Twenty-three years ago The Sun newspaper made a terrible mistake. We published an inaccurate and offensive story about the events at Hillsborough. We said it was the truth - it wasn't.

"The Hillsborough Independent Panel has now established what really happened that day. It's an appalling story and at the heart of it are the police's attempts to smear Liverpool fans.

"It's a version of events that 23 years ago The Sun went along with and for that we're deeply ashamed and profoundly sorry."

An editorial comment in today's edition reiterates the paper's sorrow at its mistake.

"The Sun's reporting of the Hillsborough tragedy 23 years ago is without doubt the blackest day in this newspaper's history," it reads.

"The Hillsborough Independent Panel's report into the disaster lays bare the disgraceful attempt by South Yorkshire police to hide their culpability behind a smokescreen of lies.

"But it is to the eternal discredit of The Sun that we reported as fact this misinformation which tarnished the reputation of Liverpool fans including the 96 victims.

"Today we unreservedly apologise to the Hillsborough victims, their families, Liverpool supporters, the city of Liverpool and all our readers for that misjudgment.

"The role of a newspaper is to uncover injustice. To forensically examine the claims made by those who are in positions of power.

"In the aftermath of the Hillsborough tragedy we failed.

"And by failing in our duty we heaped more misery on the families of those who lost their lives and the people of Liverpool.

"Nothing can excuse The Sun's Page One presentation, under the headline The Truth.

"It was inaccurate, grossly insensitive and offensive. This version of events was not the truth."

The editorial concludes: "The people of Liverpool may never forgive us for the injustice we did them.

"All we can do is offer them an unreserved and heartfelt apology that is profound, sincere and unambiguous."

In the light of yesterday's revelations, Kelvin MacKenzie, the former editor of The Sun responsible for the 'Truth' headline, also offered his "profuse apologies".

He added: "It has taken more than two decades, 400,000 documents and a two-year inquiry to discover to my horror that it would have been far more accurate had I written the headline The Lies rather than The Truth. I published in good faith and I am sorry that it was so wrong."

The apology was rejected by the families of the victims.

Trevor Hicks, chairman of the Hillsborough families support group, said the apology from MacKenzie was too little, too late.

"He [MacKenzie] is a lowlife - a clever lowlife, but a lowlife," said Hicks.

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