Hillsborough: why did they cover up the truth about my son's death?

A mother tells Graham Ball how vital evidence that her boy could have been saved was ignored
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The Independent Online
Kevin Williams was only 15 years old when, along with 95 other Liverpool football fans, he was crushed to death at Hillsborough stadium in 1989.

He died, the coroner later decided, at the same moment as they did - 3.15pm on that fatal Saturday afternoon in Sheffield when the packed crowd suddenly surged against the metal railings. That was it. Terrible, tragic - and final.

That is the official version. Kevin's mother, Anne Williams, has spent six years establishing another version of his death, which she believes proves that Kevin's life could have been saved and that he was still alive 45 minutes after the inquest was told he was dead. She has documentation which shows that statements from witnesses were changed and the cause of Kevin's death was wrongly diagnosed.

"I have fought long and hard to get the facts out," Mrs Williams says, "and there have been a lot of setbacks, but I don't get downhearted - I just have to look at a picture of him and I know I have to carry on, no matter what it takes."

The principal issue - could more have been done for the victims? - was at the heart of Hillsborough, last week's powerful television reconstruction of the disaster. But the testimony of Mrs Williams, a housewife from Formby, near Liverpool, who has the most compelling case of all the families of the dead and who has uncovered the only new evidence to emerge since the terrible events of 15 April 1989, was not shown, in spite of the prolonged efforts of the programme's makers and the writer, Jimmy McGovern.

She had made a second appeal to the Attorney-General to get Kevin's inquest reopened, and felt she could not risk jeopardising her chances. In the event the appeal took seven months and was rejected - and by then the film had been made.

Now she has decided to speak of the cover-ups she unearthed and the details of her son's desperate last minutes. The story took an enormous amount of piecing together, but after much effort she tracked down the people who tended Kevin - the police who lifted him from the crowd, the fans who helped to carry him across the pitch, and finally the two officers, a man and a woman, who attempted to revive the boy and saw him die.

She managed to establish a minute-by-minute timetable for her son's last moments with the aid of witness statements and date-time photographs. Her account convincingly gives the lie to the assertion by the coroner, Dr Stefan Popper, at the inquest in May 1990 that Kevin, like the others, had died at 3.15. This is it:

3.28pm PC Craig Hill lifts Kevin out of the mass of trapped Liverpool supporters.

3.32 Witness statements and date-time photos confirm that four fans and two police officers carried Kevin on to the pitch. (The police subsequently wave the fans away and Kevin is left alone on the turf.)

3.34 An off-duty policeman in the crowd sees Kevin's head moving and goes to his aid. He feels a pulse in Kevin's neck and is joined by a St John's Ambulance man and Liverpool fan Johnny Prescot. The officer, PC Derek Bruder, attempts mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

3.37 PC Bruder tries to flag down an ambulance. Its driver later states he was under police instructions not to stop.

3.41 Special Woman Police Constable Deborah Martin is one of a group who begin taking bodies, including Kevin, from the pitch to the ground's gym. She feels Kevin's pulse and begins a heart massage.

4.00 The lifesaving attempt looks to have worked. Kevin briefly opens his eyes, only to utter a single word, "Mum", before dying in the young officer's arms.

None of the above squares with the official version of events. Besides the inquest's assertion that Kevin was effectively dead at 3.15, senior police officers have denied there was any ambulance on the field at 3.37 and claimed SWPC Martin mistook Kevin's poignant last word for an exhalation of air from an already dead body.

Mrs Williams is not alone in believing that her new evidence provides grounds for reopening the inquest. Her petitions to the Attorney-General have been made by the leading QC Alan Jones, and she has the backing of Edward Fitzgerald QC.

She has also been supported throughout by her MP, Sir Malcolm Thornton, who in October 1994 asked the Attorney-General, Sir Nicholas Lyell, to reconsider the evidence.

"Everyone has been very good to me," she says. "I do not know how I could have got this far had not the lawyers waived their fees, because you cannot get legal aid for a case like this."

Last summer Mrs Williams wrote to the Chief Constable of the West Midlands police, the force charged with investigating the role of the South Yorkshire police on the day. She wanted to know why PC Bruder and SWPC Martin were visited by West Midlands police and told to reconsider their evidence to the inquiry, and why the written accounts of their evidence differed from statements she subsequently secured from them.

Instead of answering, the West Midland force passed the letter on to the South Yorkshire police. Last summer Mrs Williams wrote to the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, for an explanation. She has still not received a reply.

"The professional people have been a wonderful help," she said. "I'm particularly indebted to Dr Ian West, the forensic pathologist from Guy's Hospital and probably the best man in his field in the country. He studied the reports and evidence, and came up with a totally different cause of Kevin's death."

At the inquest, the coroner was told by Dr David Slater that Kevin died of traumatic asphyxia. He said it was the worst case he had seen and that in such cases unconsciouness followed in seconds, and brain death within minutes.

Dr West thinks that death was not due to traumatic asphyxia but because bones in Kevin's neck were broken causing swelling that prevented him breathing. A simple tracheotomy, an operation carried out by most ambulance crew and involving the insertion of a plastic tube through a hole in the throat, would have saved his life.

"The inquest was based on totally wrong facts," Mrs Williams says.

As the law stands, only the Attorney-General has the power to reopen the inquest. Mr Howard can reopen the inquiry into the police conduct on the day, but not instruct the coroner.

Real Life, page 16