April 15 1989 started off, for me, with a leisurely drive from London northwards on the M1 motorway to the midlands city of Coventry.
There, on that day, my second oldest nephew as well as being my only godson, was marrying his fiancée in the city’s cathedral.
After leaving the reception my then wife and I drove to another midlands town, Loughborough in Leicestershire, to visit long-standing friends of her family.
We didn’t have the car radio on, no news reports and so we had no idea what was going on in the world. In particular, we had no idea of the terrible events happening that afternoon in the ground of Sheffield Wednesday football (soccer) club. A ground that goes by the name of Hillsborough. My nephew’s wedding day was also that of the Hillsborough disaster but we only found out about that when we reached our destination in Loughborough.
A total of 96 Liverpool football fans died that day. They were crushed to death in appalling circumstances that have been argued about ever since. Another 500-plus were injured.
There have been stories, excuses, misinformation and lies – and that was just from the police as they sought to avoid any responsibility. Even the Press were taken in. Horrendous stories were written, most notoriously in The Sun daily newspaper. It published a front-page story headlined The Truth in which awful untrue allegations were made, placing the blame on Liverpool’s fans. It is now known that The Sun’s story was based on untrue ‘information’ from senior officers in South Yorkshire Police.
A coroner’s inquest was followed by other investigations as the families of those who died fought on, fought on for justice. Eventually, the original inquest verdicts were set aside and a new inquest was ordered.
This week, after hearing evidence for two years, the jury reached its verdicts. There is no need to go through all of them but the key ones are:
- The 96 who died were ‘unlawfully killed’.
- The behaviour of Liverpool fans did not add to a dangerous situation.
- The police did make ‘errors or omissions’ that caused or contributed to the dangerous situation at the match and the crush on the terraces.
How those families have fought for justice for so long is beyond me but, four days ago, their amazing dedication and hard work brought tears of relief to a proud city and its people.
The current head of South Yorkshire Police, Chief Constable David Crompton, has since been suspended and I am sure that prosecutions of others must follow.
In fact, the man who was in overall command of police at Hillsborough, Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield (now retired) has admitted lying about events that day and must be in line for prosecution. The inquest jurors were instructed that they could only decide that the victims were ‘unlawfully killed’ if they were ‘sure’ that Duckenfield was ‘responsible for the manslaughter by gross negligence’ of those who died. By a majority of 7-2, that is what they decided.