15th April this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster and fresh inquests began this week in Warrington after the original verdicts of accidental death from March 1991 were quashed.
The campaign for justice for the 96 supporters who died in the Leppings Lane part of Sheffield Wednesday’s ground that day has been long and at times complicated. With a quarter of a century having elapsed, it is important not to lose sight of the individual stories that make up one of the world’s worst footballing tragedies.
Below we re-tell, in their own words, some of the stories from relatives and friends from that appalling day. These accounts are harrowing and difficult to read. While that warning is given, no apology is made for the content. For those who attended matches regularly back in the late 1980s, we remember the crushing that was common both trying to get in and out of grounds and on terracings also. Often it was only the good sense of supporters, aware of potential dangers, which avoided crushing getting out of control. Those supposedly in charge of crowd control were often nowhere to be seen or only interested in dishing out orders or abuse to fans.
The people responsible for all those deaths continue to evade justice. Ninety-six lives including a 10 year boy, a 38 year old mum, two men in their sixties were extinguished that day. 78 of the 96 victims were under 30 years old, 38 aged 19 or less. Some people – policemen, politicians, journalists and others – actively conspired in the cover-up of the deaths that followed.
These stories help ensure that their actions – and inaction – will never be forgotten. The day of reckoning draws closer for them.
Read the stories below. And read about the campaign itself.
25 years gone. Never forgotten.
Ste Wright was at Hillsborough that day. The 20 year old returned to Liverpool in the evening to discover that his younger brother, Graham, aged 17, hadn’t made it back from Sheffield. Twelve years later, late into the night, he wrote about that night on the Liverpool fans forum ‘Red All Over the Land.’
Just thought I’d try and put everything down into words , words that sum up the pain that this night means to me
A few of you know me out there , and I come on here occasionally to have a laugh etc , one thing I’ve never done on here is to tell everyone that My brother died at Hillsborough , Its not something I ever wanted to do and thought I would ever do as well
I can get through the 15th April , the memorial takes up time , going to the Cemetery takes up time , My Family take up my time But when the nightime comes , everything comes back to haunt me. I’m on my own.
On the 15th April 1989 , I was a twenty year old lad , didn’t have a care in the world , it was me,myself & I only. That day changed me forever , The way I thought , the way I lived was gone
That night after arriving back from Sheffield that day at around 8pm After hours of waiting in the house , phoning emergency numbers ,phoning hospitals etc ! I decided I had to do something , so along with a very dear friend of mine (Peter) I headed into town , heard there was transport to Sheffield free that night leaving from Hatton Garden , Getting down there we couldn’t see a thing , so I headed to Radio City in Stanley Street to see if they could do anything for me .
Well I ended up in a Taxi , the journey was done in virtually complete silence not knowing what to expect when we got there and what to do anyway
The Taxi seemed to take an age to get there , once in Sheffield we headed for the Hospitals , The Northern General & Hallamshire are the ones I went to if I remember rightly .
In there I asked in desperation if anyone had seen my younger brother , getting frantic at this time , my memory now fades into a kind of dream state , looking back now
I was told to go back down to Hillsborough Stadium, It was about 4am on the 16th , to see the police there.
Well alls I remember now , is that I ended up in a side room to what I know now to be the gymnasium.
Confronting me on a wall was dozens and dozens of pictures of OUR dead fans ! With me being now in a total state of shock , I was shouting “he’s not there, He’s Not there” when Peter pointed at a picture and said “He’s there” , In disbelief I studied the picture hard I still couldn’t believe it , There was my little brother who’d been with me all my life , On a picture , On a wall ,all battered and bruised . Forgive me anyone , this is killing me writing this
They (the police) took the picture away , I can’t tell you how long they were gone , but within a moment in time I was taken into the gymnasium were below my feet , on the floor lay a green body bag , the bag was unzipped and there lay my brother , I touched his face , I even checked his clothes to make sure it was him ! It was just me trying to deny it , I didn’t want it to be him , He looked so sad , I held him for a second before he was taken away from me
Well then I had to sit down , be interviewed , Now I was in No fit state to be interviewed at this time , being asked if he’d had a drink and all that shite was already in the mindset of the Police. The scapegoat was there. And that scapegoat was me & my dead brother.
After the interview , if I could ever be as low as this again , I’d kill myself first
I had to phone home from the gymnasium , the number had to be dialled for me ,because basically I couldn’t see the dial
The Phone rang , a couple of times before My elder brother answered , “I’m sorry” I said ” He’s dead” I can’t recollect now what my brother said because all I can remember is the sound of My Mum screaming in the background ( That will live with me forever)
My Dad then got on , and told me to make sure I got back home safely .
I left Hillsborough on this morning 12 years ago , a broken young man , and I’m still broken today
The Taxi ride home , there is nothing i remember about it , I remember arriving home though and I gave the Taxi driver £20 quid for his help ( a couple of days later he returned it !) , thanked Peter for his help , and went into my house , My Mum and Dad were still up , It was nearing 7am by this time We all just sat there in disbelief , empty & alone with our own feelings .
The Nightmare had only just begun
So once again I ask for forgiveness for upsetting anyone , But this is my most terrible night, I can’t sleep , and I had to share it with some
I will go down to the Dockers club to support the match as I am a proud member of the H.J.C. and if anyone see’s me in the Albert before the Derby , Don’t comment on the bags under my eye’s because You’ll know the reason why
YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE — JUSTICE !
Nicola Stewart attended the game in the company of her boyfriend and other friends. She gave the following witness statement to police in April 1989.
I watch Liverpool playing at home but have never been to an away game previously. When I saw the crowds initially I wasn’t frightened but when we had gone through the outer perimeter and were trying to get through the turnstiles then I did start to become frightened.
I couldn’t move at all my hands were pinned to my side, I seemed to be swaying with the crowd my feet were pinned in one position, I was screaming and all around me people were screaming because the pressure was so unbearable.
I was gasping for air but there was nothing there, I wasn’t able to expand my lungs because of the pressure we were all suffering from.
I could feel myself passing out, I actually thought that was it. Keith, David and Arthur were saying ‘keep your head up, don’t give up”.
I thought that I was going to die, the experience is the most frightening experience I have ever been through in my life.
The three boys behind me were gone, they were dead, my nose was pressed against one of the boys who was dead.
They were only about 16 or 17.
We shouted to the police for us. They ignored us at first, I can’t understand why they didn’t do anything.
Sean Luckett survived Hillsborough. He first resumed consciousness in hospital as Kenny Dalglish spoke to him at his mother’s request. Today Sean is a writer and a father. He wrote this on the day of that the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report were published in September 2012:
This has been a tough week for me.
I thought after 23 year I might be able to deal with the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report. I thought I had my feelings under control and could take it in my stride. I couldn’t.
As I watched it unfold, from Cameron’s speech in parliament, to the last moments of the vigil in Liverpool I have cried, beaten my fists in fury and felt the guilt of survival all over again. It never goes way, it only lies hidden.
The despicable behaviour of those charged with protecting us on that day has me enraged. The cover up, beyond even the belief I already had about the goings on, aghast. The dignity and strength shown by the people who made it happen, humble.
This is not just a momentous day for the families and friends of Hillsborough victims, and those of us injured but surviving, it’s also a day that transcends football, and sport. It is a result that should reverberate throughout every football ground, and through every supporter, regardless of their allegiance.
It could so easily have been you.
I was one of the lucky ones. The report showed that dozens of people could have been saved if they had been treated correctly at the scene. Mine was saved by the selfless quick actions, and disregard for the policeman who pronounced me dead on the pitch, of a few fellow fans, who pushed me over the fence, gave me mouth to mouth and carried me unconscious out of the ground on advertising hoardings. They got me into an ambulance and I was taken to hospital. I have never met any of them. I was in touch with one lad once, but he was too traumatised to meet me. They, and everyone else there that day, should be proud of their actions. They have suffered horrifically since through no fault of their own.
What happened that day, and in the intervening 23 years, is a lesson in the venal nature of some in positions of authority when protecting themselves, and their institutions when they spy a way out, an escape from being held accountable. The pursuit of the truth has been difficult. Ordinary, working class people, stricken with grief, looking for answers and justice for 23 years, while having doors continually slammed in their faces and told to move on, forget about it, stop whinging.
They are an inspiration; the perfect embodiment of dignity, tenaciousness and fighting spirit.
Those responsible for the lies, the deceit, the betrayal of trust and the hateful covering up of their own culpability must now be held properly to account.
Those in the South Yorkshire Police who failed to carry out their jobs correctly then deliberately changed witness statements, tried to find criminal links by referencing the dead with criminal records, and took blood alcohol readings from children to try to blame alcohol.
Those in the press who thought that their print-and-be-damned actions were in the public interest, but were nothing short of disgusting lies designed to scapegoat, smear and denigrate 96 innocent men, women and children.
The government of the time that saw an opportunity to wage their class war against the industrial workers of this country, outside the factories, mining towns and docks.
Sheffield Wednesday football club, for their unwillingness to ever accept their part in the disaster by owning and leasing out an unsafe, crumbling stadium unfit for purpose.
And the FA, those bastions of all things inept and wretched, for their lack of awareness, their wilful disregard for stadium safety reports and their typically pathetic attempts to avoid any connection with the events of April 15th 1989.
I hope the families and friends of the victims feel they have won a victory, I hope they can find some peace, and I hope that the new inquests they want are forthcoming.
For those who were responsible, took no blame and spent 23 years lying, shifting blame and treating the dead and their relatives with utter contempt. I hope they are truly ashamed and disgusted with themselves. And I hope they experience some of the horror and guilt they’ve been so willing to pile onto others for the past 23 years.
The Hillsborough Justice Campaign group’s chronology of how the disaster unfolded and the causes. Information on their specific campaigns and how to help. The fight continues.
Details of the ninety-six people who lost their lives that day.
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