subscribe: Posts | Comments

Remembering the Hillsborough disaster


hillsborough memorial events today 25 years after disasterBells of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral and Town Hall and churches in Merseyside to ring at 15:06 during a one-minute silence.

On 15 April 1989 over 50,000 men, women and children travelled by train, coach and car to Hillsborough Stadium, home of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, to watch an FA Cup Semi-Final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

It was a sunny, warm, spring day and one of the high points of the English football season.

Ninety-six men, women and children died as a result of the ensuing tragedy, and thousands suffered physical injury and/or long-term psychological harm.

The victims were all Liverpool supporters.

Fans had entered down a tunnel under the West Stand into the central pens 3 and 4. The crush became unbearable and fans collapsed underfoot; and safety barrier broke, creating a pile of people struggling for breath.

Despite CCTV cameras transmitting images of distress in the crowd to the Ground Control Room and to the Police Control Box, and the presence of officers on duty on the perimeter track, it was a while before the seriousness of what was happening was realised and rescue attempts were made.

In the immediate aftermath there was a rush to judgement concerning the cause of the disaster and culpability. In a climate of allegation and counter-allegation, the Government appointed Lord Justice Taylor to lead a judicial inquiry.

Despite this range of inquiry and investigation, many bereaved families and survivors considered that the true context, circumstances and aftermath of Hillsborough had not been made public.

They were also profoundly concerned that following unsubstantiated allegations made by senior police officers and politicians and reported widely in the press, it had become widely assumed that Liverpool fans’ behaviour had contributed to, if not caused, the disaster.

In 2009, on the 20th anniversary of the disaster, Andy Burnham, at that time Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, announced the Government’s intention to effectively waive the 30-year rule withholding public records to enable disclosure of all documents relating to the disaster.

Twenty-three years on, the panel that negotiated the disclosure of documents from the authorities published its analysis in an in-depth Report.

It transpired that the risks were known and the crush in 1989 was foreseeable.

The Hillsborough panel’s findings also showed that police and emergency services had made “strenuous attempts” to deflect the blame for the disaster on to the fans.

More than 160 police statements had been altered – 116 of them to remove or change negative comments about the policing of the match.

The accidental death verdicts on all 96 men, women and children who died and which had stood for more than 20 years were quashed by the High Court in December 2012.

The High Court then ordered new inquests to be held. They have been adjourned until 22 April.

Among those who died were seven women: two sisters, Sarah, 19, and Victoria Hicks, 15; Tracey Cox, 23, who went with her boyfriend, Richard Jones, who died too; Christine Jones, 27; Inger Shah, 38, who went with her son, who survived, and Marian McCabe, 21, who did not, and Paula Smith, aged 26.

And among those who fought to find out exactly what had happened was Anne Williams, who died of cancer in April 2013.

She was honoured at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony in December 2013 after fighting tirelessly for a new inquest into her son Kevin’s death in the 1989 football tragedy.

The BBC award – named after TV presenter Helen Rollason, who died aged 43 in 1999 after fighting cancer – is given for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity. It was accepted on her behalf by her daughter Sara, son Michael, and brother Danny.

Anne Williams was one of the Hillsborough justice campaigners and she had battled for more than 20 years to overturn an inquest verdict of accidental death on her 15-year-old son.

At an inquest in 1991, jurors heard that Kevin and 94 others were dead by 15:15. She never believed this verdict, and, as a result, she refused to accept his death certificate from the coroner.

Anne, who lived in Chester, tracked down witnesses, one of whom suggested Kevin uttered the word “mum” at about 16:00.

Her perseverance, along with that of her fellow campaigners, who had refused to accept the official view of the events – that the supporters were responsible for the tragedy – prompted the creation of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which led to the original verdicts being quashed by the High Court in December 2012.

A charity record in memory of Anne Williams was released in March this year. ‘The Angel’ was written by singer-songwriter Dominic Dunn for a fundraising night in Williams’ honour last autumn.

Seventeen year-old Dominic Dunn has signed over all rights to the ‘For Justice‘ charity for Hillsborough survivors.

He told The Mirror: “All we want from the release of this song is to raise as much money as we can for Anne’s charity.

“Anne was pivotal in getting to the truth but everyone is still waiting for the justice and we want to make sure we can shine a spotlight on the ongoing fight in every way we can, hopefully the release of the single will help with that.”

Today, Merseyside will mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster with a series of tributes to the 96 victims.

And the Deputy Mayor of Liverpool, Roz Gladden, will join representatives from Sheffield council to lay wreaths at the Hillsborough Park Memorial Garden in Sheffield.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *