Last weekend I was in my home city of Liverpool, 25 years after its fans died at Hillsborough football stadium. As the new Inquest began last month there are those who think it’s time to move on, perhaps they should try listening to the harrowing testimonies of the ‘survivors’.
The Hillsborough stadium was a death trap in which 96 fans died whilst scores of ambulances were left waiting outside. Computer and alcohol checks were run on the dead and in the days and years that followed Liverpool fans were falsely accused of stealing from the dead or urinating on them.
It always strikes me that when campaigns by the Hillsborough families or even the Lawrence’s finally hit the mark, the great and good jump on board the bandwagon at the end of its journey to pay tributes to their courage and perseverance.
But in reality most families have spent years tearing down the walls of silence erected by the very same hypocrites who end up paying them tributes.
One example of disgusting attitudes that still exist towards Liverpool fans was London Mayor Boris Johnson who following the kidnapping and beheading of Scouser Ken Bigley in Iraq claimed that ‘Liverpool wallowed in its own grief’ and that its ‘fans needed to take responsibility for the Hillsborough disaster’.
Hillsborough Families- the impact of campaigning
Campaigning families become used to being ignored and accused of being conspiracy theorists but the years of struggle has a devastating impact on the survivors. Guilt and trauma can and does consume survivors.
In the case of Hillsborough there were at least three suicides- Paul Griffiths who watched his friends die, Stephen Whittle who sold his ticket to another fan and Chris Tribe a Forest fan who watched Liverpool fans die.
Neville and Doreen Lawrence, whom I first met in the nineties as a campaigner, were the ‘role model’ for a hard working and loving family, but years of fighting for justice for their murdered son Stephen, inevitably took its toll, leading to Neville’s break down and ultimately a bitter break-up of the Lawrence’s marriage.
When the new inquests into Hillsborough began last month the Coroner Lord Justice Goldring told how requests to hold or touch a dead victim “were often refused” and that “many of the bereaved remain distressed and angry to this day about the way in which they and the bodies of their loved ones were treated on that evening,”
The Jurors have by now heard many painful testimonies. One such story was that of a father, Eddie Spearitt who took his 14 year old son Adam to the match, and desperately held onto him as he lost consciousness, only for himself to wake up in hospital to be told his son had died.
He could not speak himself, but his widow did-
“Adam and Eddie were friends as well as father and son, and Eddie struggled to forgive himself for not saving Adam. He would say it was his job to protect Adam and he failed, Sadly, Eddie died three years ago, without knowing that his efforts in helping to fight for a new inquest were coming to fruition,“
Hillsborough families such as the Spearitts were treated with utter contempt but refused to be silenced by the establishment, now finally after 25 years of struggle the innocent are exonerated, their reputations are restored and a city vindicated.