Hillsborough: 96 soccer fans unlawfully killed, jury finds

Editor’s Note:

Story highlights

Long fight for truth over disaster in which 96 fans died

Police planning errors caused or contributed to disaster

Jurors find fan behavior played no part in tragedy

CNN  — 

After more than two years, a British inquest into the 1989 Hillsborough soccer stadium tragedy in which 96 men, women and children died, has delivered its verdicts on a series of key questions. It is the longest case heard by a jury in British legal history.

The jury’s findings include:

– The 96 Liverpool fans who died in the Hillsborough disaster were unlawfully killed, jurors concluded by a 7-2 majority.

– Match commander Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield’s actions amounted to “gross negligence” due to breach of his duty of care to fans.

– Police planning errors caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the disaster.

– The 96 victims were killed due to crushing following the admission of a large number of fans through an exit gate.

– Fan behavior did not cause or contribute to the tragedy.

– Both the police and the ambulance service caused or contributed to the loss of life by error or omission after the crush had begun to develop

– The UK Crown Prosecution Service will now consider criminal charges.

– Individual inquest into the 96 show times of death between 14.57 and 16.50

– Relatives of victims sing Liverpool Football Club anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as they emerge from court in Warrington after verdicts delivered.

– Club hails inquest findings as “a landmark day for all affected by the Hillsborough tragedy.”

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Families break out in song after Hillsborough verdict
01:39 - Source: CNN

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Pete Weatherby, a lawyer representing some of the bereaved families, told a Hillsborough Justice Campaign news conference: “The jury has vindicated the long, long journey of the families to obtain justice and make those responsible for the disaster accountable.”

Mr Weatherby said there had been “concerted attempts to cover up” what happened and paid tribute to the “dignity and tenacity” of the families in their battle for justice.

“The disaster was entirely avoidable and caused by catastrophic human failure,” he said, focusing on what he called “a catastrophic policing failure by South Yorkshire Police.”

Mr Weatherby said the families had been forced to endure “lies by senior officers and vile abuse in parts of the media” in the years after the tragedy in what he said was “a culture of denial writ large.”

Barry Devonside, who lost his 18-year-old son Chris at Hillsborough, told the news conference: “South Yorkshire Police and senior officers tried to deflect the blame onto the supporters.

“That campaign to deny the truth came to an end with the conclusions of the inquest.”

Mr Devonside thanked the jurors for their “remarkable commitment.”

Stephen Wright, the brother of Graham Wright, who was 17 when he died in the disaster, said: “Our loved ones could have lived but for the gross failings of the police.”

David Crompton, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, said in a statement after the inquest verdicts were delivered that the force had got the policing of the match “catastrophically wrong.”

He 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.

“On 15th April 1989, South Yorkshire Police got the policing of the FA Cup semifinal at Hillsborough catastrophically wrong.

“The force failed the victims and failed their families. Today, as I have said before, I want to apologize unreservedly to the families and all those affected.”

He added that the force “will now take time to carefully reflect on the implications of the verdicts.”

In a statement, Liverpool FC chief executive officer Ian Ayre 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.”

Hillsborough disaster: ‘Any fan would have known people were in trouble’

In his office in Yorkshire, Trevor Hicks takes a worn yellow envelope out of a binder. He carefully folds back the flap, pulling out a pair of gold hoop earrings and a small, square piece of paper.

The items belonged to his youngest daughter, and they are all he has left from the day everything changed.

He looks at the crinkled piece of paper that was her match ticket. “Well it was a death pass, wasn’t it, in the end?” he says quietly.

April 15, 1989, began like any other big match day. Liverpool Football Club was to play Nottingham Forest in the semifinals of England’s FA Cup. The chosen venue was a neutral ground – Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, the home of Sheffield Wednesday.

Trevor and Jenni Hicks with their daughters Vicki (far left) and Sarah

Fans of both teams flocked to the stadium from across the country. Among them were the Hicks family – Trevor, his wife Jenni, and their two teenage daughters, Sarah and Vicki.

“It was the one thing we did as a family,” Trevor says. “Support Liverpool Football Club.”

The girls were avid fans. They knew stats about all the players, and had posters on their walls. The 1980s were a great time to be a Liverpool supporter. The team had dominated English and European competitions for years, and the expectations for 1989 were no different.

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