Hillsborough disaster verdict: Tears of joy, hugs and a rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone as jury exonerates victims

Families of the 96 killed celebrate as their twenty-seven year wait for justice ends

Dean Kirby
Tuesday 26 April 2016 19:44
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Relatives sing "You'll never walk alone"  after the jury delivered its verdict
Relatives sing "You'll never walk alone" after the jury delivered its verdict

It was the moment that the Hillsborough families had been waiting for since 15 April, 1989, as the inquest jury exonerated their loved ones of any blame for the disaster.

Tearful relatives of the 96 cried out as the jury found that the Hillsborough victims had been unlawfully killed and that the behaviour of Liverpool fans did not cause the dangerous situation at the Leppings Lane turnstiles.

The jury's conclusions meant that the behaviour of the fans had finally been exonerated after decades of smears and the newspaper headlines, including The Sun's notorious “The Truth” front page, suggesting they were at fault.

One relative jumped up in court shouting: “Hallelujah!” Others sat with their heads in their hands and broke down in tears as they hugged each other quietly.

Shouts of “Yes” began to grow louder after each question on the jury's conclusions was read by the foreman, whose voice was breaking with emotion.

Margaret Aspinall, a leading campaigner for the families, sat in her chair at the front of the public gallery, her eyes looking up towards the heavens.

An emotional Margaret Aspinall following the verdict (Getty Images)

It was too much for some when the foreman delivered the verdicts that the fans were unlawfully killed and were not to blame.

One man in a packed annex to the main court room where the hearing was being shown on video screens leapt from his seat and punched the air as others stood up and threw their arms around each other.

A man and a woman sat silently sobbing in front of the screen and a man could be seen unrolling a white T-shirt showing the face of one of the Hillsborough victims and sitting with it on his knee after the conclusions were announced.

Outside, a fan wearing a football scarf unfurled a huge Liverpool flag that said: “We climbed the hill our own way.”

In the corridors and rooms outside the court relatives hugged and wept tears of joy.

They emerged from the building, some wearing scarves and carrying photographs of loved ones in frames, singing: “You'll Never Walk Alone” as others made emotional phone calls to loved ones.

The families returned to court and sat silently after a break to hear the jury's conclusions on the deaths of each one of the 96.

The coroner read out each name in turn, noting the jury's finding of the time of death of each person - many of them in the few moments before and after the start of the match.

What happened at Hillsborough?

The cause of death in almost all cases as compression asphyxia. Among them was Jon-Paul Gilhooley, the youngest to die, aged just 10.

Margaret Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James died in the disaster, said she was immensely grateful to the people of Liverpool for backing the fight for justice.

She told a room packed with victims' relatives and a crowd of journalists: “Let's be honest about this - people were against us. We had the media against us, as well as the Establishment.

“Everything was against us. The only people that weren't against us was our own city. That's why I am so grateful to my city and so proud of my city. They always believed in us.”

Surrounded by a sea of camera crews and reporters outside the court, Ms Aspinall added: “I think we have changed a part of history now - I think that's the legacy the 96 have left.”

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