LONDON: Families of the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the Hillsborough disaster welcomed the fact that justice had been done after the second inquest but reflected that it had taken 27 years.
Margaret Aspinall, who lost her 18-year-old son James, said: “Let’s be honest about this – people were against us. We had the media against us, as well as the establishment.
“Everything was against us. The only people that weren’t against us was our own city. That’s why I am so grateful to my city and so proud of my city. They always believed in us.”
Trevor Hicks, the father of teenage sisters Sarah and Vicki Hicks – who both died at Hillsborough, said: “We’ve known all along what happened. Obviously it’s took us 20-odd years to get here. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, to be fair. I think if anyone is a winner today, it’s society at large in that, no matter who you are, how big you are, or where you are in your organisation, the public will come after you if you do anything wrong.”
Commenting specifically about the role of South Yorkshire Police, Mr Hicks said: “Obviously they’ve got to face up to the fact – even throughout these proceedings – at the way they have conducted themselves. I go to back to what [Lord Justice] Taylor said [in his 1990 report into the disaster] in the very beginning – it would have been better if the truth had been faced.”
Tracey Church, who lost her brother Gary, said: “It’s surreal. (I feel) emotional, shaken, happy, sad – all mixed emotions.”
Stephen Wright, whose brother Graham died, said the responsibility for the disaster was “the gross failings of the police”.
He added: “The evidence over the past two years has been overwhelming, yet South Yorkshire Police and their senior officers have tried to look truth in the eye and deny responsibility and shift blame onto others.
“In particular, innocent football fans. For 27 years, we the victims of this tragedy have had to live with the outrage of such institutional denial. For this reason, we the 22 families call for the immediate resignation of David Crompton, the chief constable.”
Barry Devonside, who lost his only son Christopher, 18, said: “Today we gained the confidence from the jury that what we’ve tried to do for 27 years is to bring justice for those who never went home.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams that we would get this decision. I always hoped and dreamt that we would get this decision. I’m glad we did. We did our best – we couldn’t do any more. I’m so, so pleased.”
Charlotte Hennessy, whose father James died, said from both the police and South Yorkshire Ambulance Service it was a “hopeless emergency response – they failed the 96”.
She added: “Despite having a designated unit at the ground, with two station officers, two other personnel and an ambulance, they failed to react to the disaster unfolding before them From both the police and ambulance service it was a hopeless emergency response and undoubtedly increased the loss of life.”
Prime Minister David Cameron led the establishment’s formal responses by paying tribute to Hillsborough campaigners and said it was a “landmark day” which had provided “long overdue justice”.
In a statement he said: “Today is a landmark moment in the quest for justice for the 96 Liverpool fans who died on that dreadful day in April 1989.
“It is also a long overdue day. The bereaved families and survivors of the Hillsborough disaster have had to wait 27 long years for the full facts of what happened and it is only due to their tireless bravery in pursuing the truth that we arrived at this momentous verdict.
“All families and survivors now have official confirmation of what they always knew was the case – that the Liverpool fans were utterly blameless in the disaster that unfolded at Hillsborough.”
David Crompton, Chief Constable of disgraced South Yorkshire Police, said: “I want to make it absolutely clear that we unequivocally accept the verdict of unlawful killing and the wider findings reached by the jury in the Hillsborough Inquests.”
Ian Ayre, Liverpool Football Club’s ceo, said: “After 27 long years the true verdict has finally been delivered, confirming what the families always believed – their loved ones were unlawfully killed.
“Liverpool Football Club welcomes the jury’s decision, once and for all, that our supporters were not in any way responsible for what happened at Hillsborough.
“We will always remember the selfless bravery and heroism of the many fans that helped their fellow supporters in the most harrowing of circumstances that day. We praise those who, since the beginning of the inquest, have had to find the courage and strength to re-live what they went through.
“Since April 15, 1989, the solidarity shown by Liverpool fans towards the families and survivors encapsulates the unique character of both the club and city. We are also hugely thankful for the unwavering support the wider football community has so generously shown these past 27 years.
“It has been a painful journey for the families and survivors, who have endured and sacrificed so much for so long. The resilience and dignity they have shown throughout their tireless campaign has been humbling and inspirational. Their conduct and actions throughout their struggle has brought pride to the city of Liverpool and will serve as a lasting tribute to the victims.
“The 96 men, women and children who were unlawfully killed at Hillsborough will never be forgotten.”
Bishop James Jones, chair of the Hillsborough Family Forums, said: “I have come to know the families well and today represents a huge day in their pursuit of truth, justice and accountability. They have waited for 27 years to reach this point. They continue to be in my prayers as they absorb this momentous decision.
“The panel’s report represented the first step forward on the road to truth and ultimately justice, but the conclusion of the fresh inquests is not the last step.
“It has been a privilege to chair the family forums. I am pleased to say these will continue because it is important that the families continue to have direct contact with the investigation teams and the CPS through this next phase.”
The Most Reverend Malcolm McMahon, Archbishop of Liverpool, said: “I hope that the acknowledgment that those who died were unlawfully killed will bring comfort to the survivors and the families of the 96. May they rest in peace, to be for ever remembered in the hearts and minds of the people of Liverpool.”
Sheffield Wednesday said: “First and foremost, we recognise the tireless dedication of the families who have remained dignified throughout this process despite the enormously difficult evidence that had to be heard in detail over the course of the inquests.
“Since the disaster, football has evolved immeasurably, with all stadia and associated safety procedures changing beyond recognition in the intervening years.
“Both the ownership and leadership of Sheffield Wednesday has also changed in this time and we reiterate that the sincere condolences of the current chairman, board of directors and everyone at the club remain with the families of the 96 and our thoughts are with all those affected by the tragic events of 1989.”
Everton said: “Everton Football Club salutes the Hillsborough families and their total vindication as Fighters for Justice. Theirs is the greatest victory in the history of football. RIP, the 96. Good night, God bless. From us across the Park.”
The Football Association said: “Our sincere condolences remain with the families and friends of the victims. They have conducted themselves with great dignity throughout these Inquests, during which there has been an exhaustive investigation of the horrific circumstances that took place 27 years ago.
“Ultimately, the Inquests stand as testament to the struggle undertaken by the families so the truth might be brought to light.
“While much has changed since 1989, the FA and English football in general must continue to recognise, remember and learn from the tragedy. In looking forward, it is important we never forget.
“Given the ongoing criminal investigations, there are limitations to what we can say. It is in the interests of all concerned that further consideration of the disaster by the relevant authorities must be allowed to take its course.”
Sue Hemming, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Following the inquest’s determinations the CPS team will continue to work closely with Operation Resolve and the IPCC as in due course, the CPS will formally consider whether any criminal charges should be brought against any individual or corporate body based upon all the available evidence, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.
“We would ask that everyone is mindful of the continuing investigations and the potential for future criminal proceedings when reporting or publicly commenting on the inquest’s conclusions.”
Rachel Cerfontyne, chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said: “The conclusion of the inquests is another milestone and a day when my thoughts are with the families and friends of those who died as a result of the disaster.
“Now the inquests have ended our role in providing documents and other material to support the Coroner is over. However the end of the inquests does not mark the end of the process.
“Our attention now focuses on concluding our criminal investigation into the aftermath of the disaster. This is by far the biggest and most complex investigation ever undertaken by the IPCC.
“We have made significant progress on the investigation and we will continue to work closely with Operation Resolve and the Crown Prosecution Service to pursue our remaining lines of enquiry as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. I anticipate we will conclude the criminal investigations by the turn of the year.”
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