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Pop star backs weekly’s inquiry call over 1943 disaster

A top-selling pop star from the 1980s has lent her backing to a campaign by a weekly newspaper for a government inquiry over a wartime tragedy in which 173 people lost their lives.

Former Bucks Fizz singer Cheryl Baker, left, is backing a campaign by the Docklands and East London Advertiser for an apology over a 1943 air raid shelter accident at Bethnal Green in which men, women, children and babies were crushed to death.

The Eurovision winner performed in the East End earlier this month with two of her former Bucks Fizz co-stars to raise money for Bethnal Green’s Stairway to Heaven memorial to the victims.

The campaign has been launched by the Archant London title after author Rick Fountain uncovered wartime papers showing Bethnal Green council had warned about the dangerous staircase and there was a cover-up in Parliament afterwards by then Home Secretary Herbert Morrison.

Cheryl, whose aunt Ivy Silver survived the disaster, has joined the call for an inquiry into the disaster which was wrongly blamed on the crowd panicking.

She said: “The government of the day knew the staircase leading down to the shelter was unsafe. It’s shameful that they refused three times to give cash to make it safe before the tragedy.

“I understand that blame was swept under the carpet because of wartime public morale. But after 70 years it’s time the government acknowledged it was not the people of the East End to blame.”

Campaigners hope their fight has been boosted after the government finally apologised to the Hillsborough victims in the Commons last month after football fans were blamed for the 1989 disaster.

Cheryl, whose band won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1981 with Making Your Mind Up, has pledged funds towards a permanent memorial in Bethnal Green Gardens, which is now under construction.