COLUMN: Hillsborough verdict is reward in families’ long fight for justice

The Hillsborough Memorial in Sheffield on the day that an inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing. Picture Scott Merrylees
The Hillsborough Memorial in Sheffield on the day that an inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing. Picture Scott Merrylees

Attempting to write a piece on an event that happened when I was a one-and-a-half-year-old might take some doing but nonetheless I will give it a go.

April 15th 1989 was the date. Liverpool taking on Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium was the fixture. Thousands packed into the stadium, yet 96 never returned home to their families, killed in a tragic manner.

Yesterday, 27 years following the event, a jury ruled that those unfortunate souls who went to watch their favourite team and never returned home were unlawfully killed thanks to a series of high-profile errors.

The Hillsborough disaster is a harrowing tale. Barbaric, if I may. Imagine travelling to watch your team, giving your loved one a kiss goodbye ‘see you later, darling’, yet never returning back to be with them once again. The thought is sickening.

My mum was at home watching the events unfold on the television, with my dad in the stadium as a Forest fan. In a day where mobile phones were merely a pipedream, that must have been a pretty scary time.

I can’t begin to imagine the actual feeling that those 96 families must have felt, but yesterday at least offered them some reward for their heroic fight for justice.

Anne Williams, a long-term advocate for the justice campaign, who tragically passed away in April 2013, wrote a remarkable book called ‘With Hope in Her Heart’ which tells the tale of losing her son Kevin on that fateful day in 1989. For anyone who hasn’t read it, I suggest you do so.

She tries to put into words the thought process leading up to the day and in the aftermath, with her story of campaigning for justice all the more humbling given that she twice fought serious illness before eventually succumbing to cancer. Williams goes down as a real hero in my eyes and no doubt those who toasted victory yesterday held her close in their thoughts as a woman who simply refused to give up the fight for what she believed in.

Time and time again lawyers and legal boffins told Williams and many others that they had no case. Nothing to fight for, which as we now know is complete and utter nonsense.

South Yorkshire Police have a lot to answer for as do several other authorities including the Football Association.

Crowd concerns had been raised the year previous in 1988, when the same two sides met at the same stage of the FA Cup at Hillsborough. The ground wasn’t fit for such a mammoth attendance then, so quite how they came to the conclusion that it would be a worthy venue just 12 months later is absurd.

The Sun newspaper acted inexplicably back in 1989 and four days following the event they went with a front page headline which read ‘THE TRUTH’ and claimed that Liverpool supporters had urinated on police officers and pick pocketed victims, which of course was not factual.

The tabloid printed an apology in 2012 yet showed their true colours once again in today’s paper by completely disregarding it from the front page, instead going for some non-news story regarding David Cameron, Rita Ora shocking the world by wearing a dress and 2-4-1 tickets to Thorpe Park.

Seeing the victims’ families and fellow Liverpool supporters outside the High Court in Warrington yesterday, arms aloft, bellowing out You’ll Never Walk Alone was a moving moment to say the least.

Without a football being kicked, Tuesday 26th April will go down as the greatest victory in the history of Liverpool Football Club, as justice finally prevailed.