Prime Minister Gordon Brown has paid tribute to the 'magnificent' Liverpool fans who fought to save lives at Hillsborough and condemned those who attempted to blame them for the disaster on football's darkest ever day on April 15, 1989.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday's 20th anniversary, the Prime Minister insisted the country remains in full support for the families who tragically lost loved ones at the fateful FA Cup semi-final in Sheffield.
'People will never forget that day; it's etched on our memories,' said Mr Brown, in an exclusive interview to be screened for the first time at 9pm tonight during a special edition of 'This is Anfield' on Liverpool's official television channel, LFC TV.
'I remember just hearing half hour by half hour the news as it came across from the Hillsborough stadium. It was then that I started to realise what a major disaster that this was. I also remember how the Liverpool fans helped each other, coming to the aid of people who were in difficulty and trying to rescue fellow fans - both young and old. I don't think we can ever forget the 96 people who died.
'I think that the families, in trying to cope with this disaster, have had the support of all decent minded people across the country.
'I think that's probably what matters most: that people understood that the behaviour of Liverpool fans in helping each other was, as I think the judge said, 'Magnificent'; that it was wrong for people to blame, as some did, Liverpool fans on that day and it's right that the Freedom of the City has been given to the families of Liverpool fans on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of this disaster.'
'The work that they did to help each other on that day and subsequent events when people had to help each other through the difficult times is something that will never be forgotten.'
The Prime Minister, however, refused to be drawn on the issue of apossible legal route remaining for the 96 grieving families in their continued quest for justice.
He added: I feel that the best thing that we can do is say that the memories of these fans who died will always be in our minds, that the country understands the difficulties that people have gone through and that there is huge public support and affection for the families that have had to suffer so much.'
'Let's never forget the fans that cruelly lost their lives on a day when we know the people of Liverpool were trying, if they were in that ground, to help each other and that's the spirit of Liverpool.'