Topman under fire after T-shirt allegedly insults memory of Hillsborough victims

Topman has been forced to stop selling a long-sleeved T-shirt which has been the source of controversy as it appeared to mock those who died in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

The £20 red shirt, the colour of Liverpool Football Club’s kit, features the number 96 on the back in letters similar to the football jersey and has the phrase ‘What goes around comes back around’ and the word ‘karma’ down the sleeves.

The design has a rose, which many survivors and families of the victims see as a symbol of the tragedy, and 96 roses are laid at the annual memorial service of the victims.

The high street store was quick to respond to the criticism and has removed the item from its website and stores.

But they said the design was inspired by a 1996 remix of a popular Bob Marley track.

The retailer refused to say how many of these shirts had been sold but said: “Topman apologises unreservedly for any offence caused by this T-shirt. The design was inspired by a Bob Marley track with the number referring to the year of re-release.”

The garment has been removed from sale online and in stores.

The chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, Margaret Aspinall, who lost her 18-year-old son, James, in the disaster, was shocked Topman had allowed the item to go on sale.

She told the BBC: “If they’ve made a mistake they should apologise and say they didn’t realise the implications. Anything with 96 on it and a rose running through it and karma on the sleeve and the wording on it, people will think is a dig at Hillsborough. Everybody should be aware of Hillsborough and the fact that 96 people died.”

Some of the families of those killed at Hillsborough refuse to accept the design of the T-shirt has no connection to the incident.

Louise Brookes, whose brother Andrew died in the disaster, said she thinks there are “too many coincidences.”

She told the Victoria Derbyshire show: “It is in red – why isn’t it not in another colour? But it is the rose for me because the rose is very significant to Hillsborough. Why didn’t they put 1996 on the shirt, why 96?”

Brookes said the word ‘karma’ was the most damaging part of the design. She added: “Us families and survivors, all we have heard for 29 years is Hillsborough is God’s way of punishing the Liverpool fans for Heysel.”

This was a reference to the 1985 disaster, where a wall at the Heysel stadium in Brussels collapsed and killed 39 people at a Juventus-Liverpool match.