A junior civil servant in Liverpool has been sacked for making offensive Wikipedia edits about the Hillsborough disaster, but efforts to find other culprits are being abandoned, Francis Maude has said.
The 24-year-old – who has not been named – was identified as being behind posts in 2012 and fired for gross misconduct, the Cabinet Office minister said.
He was tracked down after the Daily Telegraph and internet group Wikipediocracy cross-referenced his social media history and work records.
Maude said in the statement to MPs: "Extensive further inquiries were taken forward as a civil service disciplinary matter, involving potential breaches of the civil service code and of individual departments' policies on acceptable behaviour.
"An individual was then subject to a formal disciplinary investigation and dismissed for gross misconduct, on the grounds of responsibility for the 2012 edits."
The civil servant, born in London but based in Liverpool, changed the phrase "You'll never walk alone", the anthem of Liverpool football club, to read: "You'll never walk again."
Maude described the civil servant as a "young, junior administrative officer", but said he would not be named as it was "long-standing established practice that in such cases an individual's name will not be made public".
But the minister added that the investigation had been unable to identify the source of other abusive edits – which began on the 20th anniversary of the 1989 tragedy in which 96 Liverpool fans died.
In one instance "Blame Liverpool fans" was anonymously added to the Hillsborough section of the online encyclopedia.
Maude said: "There are substantial technical obstacles to investigating the other edits. The deletion of internet data logs in the ordinary course of business means that tracing historic edits to a particular department, building or individual has proved extremely difficult. In the absence of other specific leads, and despite a great deal of forensic and other work, it has not been possible to identify the originators of the 2009 edit or any of the others in question … Subject to further information or leads coming to light, the investigation into the edits is therefore concluded."
Maude said the incident raised questions about the way in which the internet was accessed from government and its use recorded, and about social media policies in departments.
"We will continue to encourage and enable civil servants to use the internet and social media, as essential tools enabling them to work openly and to be connected to the society they serve. But the misuse of social media is unacceptable and carries consequences. We will be reminding all civil servants of their responsibilities and updating social media guidance."
The suspected author was first located when his abusive edits from a government secure intranet (GSI) computer ended with a joke about the Liverpool stadium's capacity.
He claimed that attendance at the ground was worse than Chelsea and Everton football clubs – "and even Borehamwood", a town in Hertfordshire.
Wikipediocracy, an online community concerned with abuse of the internet, alerted the Telegraph to subsequent edits that appeared to have been made from the same government computer to Borehamwood's dedicated Wikipedia page.
Among changes made soon after the Hillsborough slurs, the civil servant is believed to have written an addition to the town's "Notable Companies" section.
He wrote critical comments about Adecco, a recruitment firm with which he had some grievances, and left biographical details about his time in the area. Wikipediocracy and the Telegraph later traced a man with access to the GSI who had made comments about Hillsborough and the 1985 Heysel stadium disaster on social media and was also linked to Adecco, Borehamwood, Chelsea and Everton.
Margaret Aspinall, chair of Hillsborough family support group, told the Telegraph: "We had a meeting on Friday evening and all the families agreed that his name should be withheld. He has been sacked, and we all took the decision not to name him because social media can be very unpleasant. The most important thing is that this has been dealt with and it has not been covered up. He has been punished."