Hillsborough disaster: I couldn't hold my dead child as he became 'property of the coroner'

The harrowing stories came as distraught relatives told the inquests of their treatment by police and the lack of dignity afforded to the dead

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The Independent Online

A father whose son was among the 96 Liverpool fans who died in a crush at the Hillsborough football stadium told today how his wife was physically prevented from hugging her dead child because he had become the “property of the coroner”.

Another victim was left with a plastic bin bag placed over his face and relatives were repeatedly asked if their dead loved ones had been drinking.

The harrowing stories came as distraught relatives told the inquests in Warrington of their treatment by police and the lack of dignity afforded to the dead in the immediate aftermath of the 1989 disaster.

Supporters are crushed against the barrier as disaster strikes before the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest - police footage of the day contains a 10-minute gap in one of the tapes

A woman was slapped in the face by a social worker for refusing to believe her brother was dead, while another woman was prevented from kissing the forehead of her dead brother, the inquests heard.

Leslie Jones, whose son Richard, 25, and partner Tracey Cox, 23, died at the stadium on 15 April 1989 during the FA cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, told the inquests that his wife Doreen had tried to reach and cuddle his son.


“But the police officer pulled her up roughly and said: ‘Sorry he’s the property of the coroner now, you can’t touch him,’” Mr Jones said.

He said his wife was distraught. They were also asked if Richard and Tracey and their daughter Stephanie, who survived the crush, had been drinking.

John McCarthy had been shown video footage of his 20-year-old brother Ian Glover’s face covered with a bin liner in the football club’s gymnasium, which was used as a temporary mortuary. He said there was “no dignity at all – even when he was dead – a bin bag on his face.”

Officers from South Yorkshire Police accused Liverpool fans of stealing money from the bodies during the disaster in 1989

Martin Thompson said police twice refused his requests to phone his mother as he had to answer questions and to identify his 17-year-old brother Stuart’s body.

He said it was “not appropriate” for the police to be asking about alcohol, when he said: “I was shaking, I was anxious, I was crying”.

Theresa Arrowsmith, whose brothers Christopher Traynor, 26, and Kevin Traynor, 16, died, said: “The first thing they asked us was how much had they had to drink and I said: ‘I don’t know.’”

David Duckenfield, former Chief Super-intendent of South Yorkshire Police and the Hillsborough match commander

She said the officer kept “going on and on” and she became upset and broke down. She went to kiss Christopher’s forehead and was told not to touch him, as “he belonged to the coroner.”

Louise Brookes, 17 when her brother Andrew, 26, died, was shaking her head saying: “He’s not. He’s not dead, he’s not,” and was slapped across the face by a retired social worker.

“I was physically assaulted that night. It’s disgraceful,” she said. At one point, she said there was a “massive scuffle” as the media had got in and were trying to take pictures of the families in the gym.

John McCarthy said he had a ticket for the North Stand and his brothers Joe and Ian were on the Leppings Lane terraces.

Scarfs and balloons are placed in front of the Kop stand on the Anfield pitch to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster in Liverpool in April last year (Getty)

When he went to the gymnasium, he was initially prevented from getting in by a police officer who told him and his brother: “I don’t care, just go away. No-one’s getting in.”

After the match, the brothers and their father were asked questions by two police officers.

He told the hearing they were asked if they went to any pubs before the match and how much they’d had to drink. The police asked them all the same question - even though their dad only came to pick them up from the ground.