THE artist behind a controversial statue in memory of the Hillsborough victims today said he did not want anyone to be offended by his work.
Sculptor Tony Evans said he was 'very shocked' outraged Liverpool fans, including families of the 96 victims, had called for the metal artwork to be binned.
Web forums were inundated with messages after images of the planned sculpture appeared on the internet.
A model of the proposed 15ft-high statue went on display at Blakes Restaurant, inside the Hard Days Night Hotel, in North John Street last week. But it was withdrawn following the emotional reaction.
Tony said: 'I am very upset and disappointed at the response to unofficial images that have been circulated. Everyone who has seen the sculpture at first hand has understood it and been strongly in favour.
'The piece actually shows the rescue of a young, injured supporter who is being lifted by a supporter inside the stand. He is raising his hands and looking for help.
'The injured supporter is grasping the hand of another who is lifting them from outside the stand. It is a positive image showing strong people helping each other and helping the helpless.
'Liverpool has had enough of the wrong type of publicity and this is an image of strong people reacting in a positive way.
'There have been comments made about the statue saying it shows twisted and tortured figures struggling against metal bars.
'That is simply not true. It is a complicated sculpture and I believe those comments are based on poor images on the internet which show a jumble of arms and bodies.'
The artist stressed the approval of the families and everyone affected by the 1989 disaster was important.
And he said he started out with the backing of grieving families and Liverpool City Council.
Tony added: 'I was born and raised in Liverpool.
'I worked in Wavertree for 30 years and I am a LFC supporter. So I am acutely aware of the sensitivity of this subject and the emotions involved.
'It is a shame people have reacted when they have not seen the statue.
'In September I was asked by representatives from Liverpool Town Hall and the council if I would design a sculpture to commemorate the Hillsborough disaster.
'I designed a preparatory model of two figures and an abstract representation of the railings, terracing and the eternal flame.
'The Town Hall saw this and decided it was not strong enough and suggested adding various other elements to create a stronger image.
'I re-designed the existing model and I showed it to a group from the Hillsborough Family Support Group and representatives of Liverpool Town Hall and the council.
'I was given a unanimous vote of approval.
'The reaction was very emotional in a positive way.
'And I was congratulated on the sensitivity and strength of the piece.
'To my understanding e-mails and letters were sent out to all concerned asking for any comments or objections within the following two weeks.'
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