Belfast Telegraph

Hillsborough verdict greatest victory ever won by Liverpool

By Steven Beacom

There were smiles, hugs, tears and a rousing rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone outside the Coroner's Court in Warrington.

Justice had finally been done for the 96 Liverpool supporters killed at Hillsborough in Sheffield on April 15, 1989.

And the families of those who perished that dreadful day could celebrate winning the fight of their lives.

It took them 27 years, yet they never gave up.

The pain of losing a son, daughter, mum, dad, brother or sister will always remain for the families and there will still be anger that justice took so long to be served, but they can also feel proud of their monumental efforts.

They have been working and waiting almost three decades for yesterday's verdict, delivered by the jury after an agonising inquest that lasted over two years, poring over all the horrific and heartbreaking details.

That afternoon in 1989, thousands of football fans travelled to Yorkshire to cheer on their favourite teams, Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, with a place in the FA Cup final at stake.

Tragically, 96 did not make it home.

Think about that for a second. Filled with excitement and enthusiasm they went to a sporting occasion, as the vast majority of us will have done at some time in our lives, and did not make it home.

Men and women. Boys and girls. It was the most harrowing, traumatic experience for the families and friends of those who died.

And for those supporters who survived there were nightmares and guilt, having witnessed death occurring in front of them, even though they were powerless to stop it. Liverpool was overwhelmed with emotion and grief. The city wept.

More hurt was to follow when the Liverpool supporters were blamed by Government officials, high-ranking police officers and elements of the media for what happened on April 15, 1989. That was just too much to take - and accept - leading to a fierce battle and campaign for the truth to emerge.

Yesterday, it did, as the jury concluded Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed at Hillsborough.

In no way were the supporters to blame. Police errors caused a dangerous situation at the turnstiles, and failures by commanding officers caused a crush on the Leppings Lane terraces. Defects at the stadium contributed to the disaster and the emergency response, including the ambulance service, was delayed.

It is sad that between 1989 and today some family members of the 96 and passionate campaigners have passed away. They, too, should be remembered today for the sacrifices they made to do right by their own.

Over the years Liverpool have enjoyed many great victories on the field. This, though, can be viewed as the greatest triumph of all associated with the football club.

This was Justice for the 96.

  • Steven Beacom is the Belfast Telegraph's sports editor

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