Hillsborough, 3.06pm, 15 April 1989

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The Independent Culture
The Bereaved


Stephanie Jones travelled to Sheffield the night before the game to stay with her brother, Richard, and his girlfriend, Tracey, who were at Sheffield University. The plan was that on the Sunday, Doreen and Les Jones would pick up their son, daughter and Tracey, and drive to Snake Pass for a picnic. On the Saturday afternoon, Doreen had gone to visit her father. "I was in the kitchen but my father shouted to me to tell me there was trouble at Hillsborough."

Doreen went through to watch the television. "I saw people lying on the pitch and people coming over the fence... and I heard the man say it was Leppings Lane that the trouble was in... and I couldn't understand why these people were falling on to the pitch. I started to panic. I was shouting, `My three are in there. I've got to go home,' and I started to cry. I hadn't seen anybody who'd died, but his voice was very serious and I ran all the way home."

Doreen rang Les at work where he was also watching the television coverage. He felt that the three would be safe because they would not have been near the front of the pen. Doreen was "getting more and more upset watching the scenes" while Les "was already quite aware that there were deaths in the crowd". Some time before 5pm, Stephanie rang from Sheffield. She was in tears because she had lost both Richard and Tracey. With the help of another fan she had made her way back to the car. A local woman let her use her phone.

"She said she'd hurt her ribs, hurt her arm. I told her to go back to the ground and tell the police what she had told me." Doreen thought that Richard must be hurt and was probably at the hospital. She phoned Les and he returned home. She contacted Tracey's mother in Wiltshire and "promised that with every step of the way [they] would keep in touch.

"Les came home and got changed... Stephanie finally rang and said she was in a boys' club in Sheffield, right by the police station. She told her dad where it was and we told her we were leaving right away for Sheffield." As they set off, Les was sure that Richard was seriously hurt. "There was no way he would have let Stephanie go missing and the fact that he was missing was conclusive proof that there was something wrong..." "At first," said Doreen, "we were talking about whether they were all right... then conversation petered out..."

At the boys' club, they met Stephanie who was with Richard and Tracey's friends and a social worker. Doreen and Les were also assigned a social worker. There was no information, no casualty list, but a "terrible atmosphere... slowly but surely the people in there were being taken over by dog collars... more priests and vicars than people..."

Then towards 1am a senior police officer stood on a chair announcing names. "We didn't know whether they were people who'd been injured or [whether] he was looking for people..." So Les went and asked. When he received no real answer, he went to the police station and was "chased back" to the boys' club. They were told to wait.

It was about 2.15am when another police officer announced that they "were being taken to the ground to look at some photographs". Doreen shouted out: "Why? What are we going to look at photographs for? Why aren't we being taken to a hospital?" She continued, "He knew what the photographs were and I suppose I did..."

They were taken outside - "two priests, two social workers, Stephanie, Les and I" - and put upstairs on a double-decker bus. Les could not stop shaking, "you didn't know if it was the cold or the fear or what..." At the ground they were left on the bus, "the Salvation Army... throwing blankets around [their] shoulders to keep [them] warm".

Queuing outside the gymnasium, the police reaction was "aggressive... pushing and shoving [people]". A Salvation Army officer approached and saw that Les "was fuming" and asked, "What's the problem?". Les replied that they had not seen a casualty list. He told them not to worry, he would fetch one. "He went away but he never came back..."

Once inside, they realised the full horror of the gymnasium. Surrounded by gym equipment, and what looked like "curtains hanging", they watched "a guy standing there punching a brick wall... people screaming and God knows what..."

Les was asked to go and view the photographs. Doreen said, "The pair of us went hand-in-hand to stand in yet another queue... there were, like partitions and this noise all around you of people sobbing and screaming... I was just shaking from my head to my feet. I had this blanket on but I was still shaking and shaking. And this policeman - he had a helmet on - said: `Can't you just keep still?"

Stephanie had stayed in the room with the social worker. Doreen and Les then saw the photographs. Doreen said, "They were only small Polaroid pictures and we seemed to go along loads of them. And then Les pointed out Richard... And then he said he couldn't find Trace. I said this was Trace... Les didn't recognise her at first".

They were taken inside the door, "and they brought us two trolleys together, pulled one out - unzipped it, just showed you the head and you just said `Yes' and they pulled the next one forward..." Doreen bent down "to cuddle Richard" but she never made it. "I don't know who it was... they hawked me up and told Les that they [the bodies] were the property of the coroner and we couldn't touch him. The next thing I know I'm sitting on a chair, so whether I blocked it out, I don't know. But I know I didn't touch him, I wasn't allowed to touch him."

Someone went to collect Stephanie and an argument broke out. The police were demanding statements and Les said: "I don't want to give you a statement now." They replied: "I'm afraid you're going to have to." Social workers were arguing that the statements could wait and the police responded: "No. We want them now."

"I was absolutely fuming with rage but thought OK, we've got to do it, I suppose they need identification, so let's get it over with."

Do you know whether he had a drink on the way up here? What time did he leave home? Do you know whether he went for a drink the night before? Did he usually have a drink before the match? Sitting opposite and alongside police officers, Les "was like a zombie". The questions felt like accusations.

"The whole time this guy in civvies was tut-tutting. I just tried to blot him out but he was getting on my nerves. Eventually the guy asking the questions said, `Okay, that's great,' and walked away and I thought that was it... then another bobby came and we had to go through it all again. All the time these horrendous scenes were going on."

When they finished answering questions about Tracey, they went to get up from the table and the plainclothes officer said: "I want a statement now, an overall statement." Les sat down. "I was so mad ... I just stared ahead and he was asking me questions, like an overall statement. When it was over, he sort of threw the statement at me and said: "Here you are, get that signed." I said: "No. I'm going to read it first." I started reading it and he had everything wrong, it was unbelievable, he had his [Richard's] age wrong, everything wrong."

Later that day they went to the Medico-Legal Centre. Doreen wanted to sit with Richard, as she had wanted to hold him at the gymnasium. "That at one time in your life when you needed to be with your son... You've brought him into the world, for Christ's sake, you needed to see him out." Regardless of her actions, however hard she and Les had tried, "there was no way they were going to let me be with him". They were powerless.

This is an edited extract from `Hillsborough, The Truth', by Phil Scraton (Mainstream pounds 9.99)

The Liverpool Captain


THE GAME meant nothing to us afterwards. The next few weeks were dominated by the funerals. You realised that football was just not important.

It was a very black day for everyone involved in football. I remember the referee telling me to get the players off the pitch quickly. We didn't realise what was going on even when we were out on the pitch.

There appeared to be some kind of trouble behind the goal.

We were sat in the dressing-room and I remember one guy coming in and screaming: "You can't play on. You can't play on." It was only afterwards, when we watched it on television, that we fully realised what exactly had happened behind the goal.

We just felt so helpless sitting in there. There was nothing we could do. I wouldn't say we wanted to quit the game but we really weren't interested in playing after the semi-final. I was captain on the day, but there wasn't much I could do. Nobody spoke.

Maybe [the FA Cup final against Everton] shouldn't have been played, but there were so many other things going on that any decision was going to be difficult. And a lot of people wanted us to continue in the hope that we would win for the supporters.

In the days afterwards, the staff came round and told us that we now had to win the cup for those who had died.

Ronnie Whelan is now coaching the Greek club side Panionios

The Forest Player


I THINK we'd played for about 10 minutes or so and we were just concentrating on the game. It started off at a frantic pace. A couple of people spilled on to the pitch but we knew it wasn't crowd trouble. We thought we'd let the police sort it out.

We went off and sat in the dressing-room for an hour and a half with no knowledge of what was going on. The referee popped his head in every 20 minutes or so to say we'd hang on a bit - he wasn't yet aware of the tragedy.

As to the extent, we didn't find out until about 5.30pm.

You can't contemplate it. If somebody had said one person had died, you'd have thought it was horrible, but as the numbers went up it got worse.

All our thoughts were with the Liverpool fans who had lost family and friends. It hit home that it could have been at the Forest end and it could have been our fans.

It was a difficult situation for us at Forest, because I think the whole country wanted Liverpool to win the re-match, but in the circumstances the game was almost secondary.

I remember being so pleased that the game was over. FA Cup semi-final day is such a special day, and it didn't feel like that. Normally, the two sets of supporters involved are extremely excited about it because they may be going to Wembley, but there wasn't that sort of feeling.

Nigel Clough is now player-manager of Burton Albion

The Policeman


I WAS in the car in Barnsley when the call came over the police radio asking for assistance at Hillsborough. At that point we thought it was a pitch invasion.

I got to the ground at around 4.30pm. The first sight that confronted me was of 11 bodies lying behind the barriers. That was the first time I knew that there had been deaths. All the way over in the car, I had been expecting a pitch invasion with complications. I didn't know there were deaths.

Anyway, I saw the bodies and the inspector came up to me and said: "It's worse than that, Boss - there is a whole gymnasium of bodies."

You see terrible things, but you have to put your professional head on. There were the families there who you are trying to help. You have to try to get on with it.

It was a long night. I remember the sports minister Colin Moynihan coming up. He had never seen a dead body before and yet he came into the gym and there were 90 there.

Looking back now, 10 years on, I think that people have to leave it alone. I hope the service today will help. I hope it will help the healing process.

Brian Mole retired from the force six years ago and is now head of security at Sheffield University

The Journalist


WHAT HAS been inadequately addressed by the film, the documentaries, the enquiries, was that five minutes before the disaster, the crowd control was about combating hooliganism.

Suddenly it was about crowd protection. Although there was appalling incompetence by the police, in a sense those who were bereaved, were bereaved by hooligans. Not through hooligan behaviour on the day, but by the actions of hooligans in the past which had led to oppressive pens, herding like animals, and siege mentalities at grounds.

Since then, we've rectified the problems - the hooligans, the penning, terraces. I don't regret the changes. I don't care what atmosphere we've lost. Atmosphere is not worth one injury, let alone 100 lives.

Having been there I don't want to be reminded of it. It was the end of a terrible era, I hope.

Patrick Barclay is now at `The Sunday Telegraph'

The Photographer


I WAS one of The Independent's staff photographers and the first I knew was when I got a call from the picture editor at about 3.15pm. I drove up the M1 and got there about 5.45pm.

The photographers there earlier had taken those pictures used over the next few days of people crushed up against the fences. I can't see how you can illustrate an event like that where people were choked, squashed to death, using any other image. Ten years on, no one has been held accountable for what happened. I find that dreadful.

Keith Dobney still works as a freelance photographer

The Forest Supporter


IT'S A strange feeling that the Forest supporters at the game were left with. Although the tragedy concerned Liverpool fans, there were also a lot of people from Nottingham who were affected. It left a mental scar for people who were there. I believe there was counselling for some of the Forest fans who were there.

I can still remember the day very clearly. It was a day I'll never forget. I was sitting level with the edge of the 18-yard box at the Leppings Lane end.

When it first happened, you didn't really realise the enormity of it, but gradually the scale of what had happened began to sink in - that so much carnage could have happened at a football game.

Now, I think that football is a safer place with better grounds and supporters are a lot more responsible.

I think most Forest supporters would like to forget about it. But that's not easily done.

Mel Hart now chairs the Nottingham Forest Supporters Club

The Liverpool Supporter


WE ARRIVED at the match around 1.50pm and went straight into the central pens. By 2.10pm, the crush was already as bad as the Kop [the terrace at Liverpool's ground] ever was, aggravating my friend's injured back. We struggled out of the tunnel and found the empty pens, unaware of what we were leaving behind.

It would be fitting if the 10th anniversary could see an end to the bitterness. I think, though, the river of injustice is too wide, authorities' stonewalling too callous. Decent people like the Hammonds - who lost their beloved Philip - don't sacrifice so much pursuing groundless causes.

Their lives have been on hold since then. They've struggled to come to terms with their loss and the reasons for it. The justice they want is simple: a fair trial of those responsible for the disaster and for the lies and cover-ups afterwards. I believe that is fair.

For me, I pray that thoughts of that crowded pen will stop wrenching my guts.

I pray that in years to come, my grandson will ask me why there was no FA Cup final in 1989. I pray that I'll be able to tell him that the participantsagreed 10 years later to have that final taken out of the record books. Their doing so, I shall add, was an honourable thing to have done, in recognition of the 96 victims of the disaster, many of them children.

Would the fruition of such a prayer be too much to expect?