Hillsborough memorial at Anfield
Their journey has led to today’s verdicts in the new inquest into those deaths. For the relatives and friends, there may now be a sense of closure, of justice. But for those who shamefully covered up the terrible reality of what happened on the fateful Saturday afternoon, there will be a combination of fear and apprehension. Police, politicians, and worst of all the press, have been bracing themselves for the inquest’s conclusion.
Ultimately, it was all distilled down into a 14-part questionnaire, on which the inquest jury had reached unanimous agreement - except for one question. That was the question of whether the 96 victims were unlawfully killed. As the BBC has set it out, “To answer yes, jurors must be ‘sure’ that match commander Ch Supt David Duckenfield was ‘responsible for the manslaughter by gross negligence’ of those who were fatally injured”.
Yesterday, the coroner, John Goldring, on hearing that the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on that last question, told jurors he would accept a majority decision, and was then informed that at least seven of the nine had reached agreement. The verdicts would be delivered today, in order to allow relatives and friends of the victims to travel to Warrington and hear those verdicts in person.
So it was that the answers to that questionnaire were read out to a hushed courtroom. Or rather, it was hushed until the jury forewoman arrived at Question Six. To the question “Are you satisfied, so that you are sure, that those who died in the disaster were unlawfully killed?” the answer came back YES. By a majority verdict. There was spontaneous applause from the gallery. And more was to follow.
Question Seven, “Was there any behaviour on the part of the football supporters which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation at the Leppings Lane turnstiles?” was perhaps the one that the press establishment was dreading. The answer was a unanimous NO. There was more applause from the gallery.
After all fourteen questions had been answered, the jury retired to yet more applause. The waiting was over. It had taken so long that some who had started the journey were not there at the end. But at long last, the stain upon Liverpool Football Club, its supporters, the city and indeed the whole of Merseyside has been cleaned away.
In 1989, we witnessed what was effectively an establishment cover-up of 96 unlawful killings. But slowly, surely, the cover-up was exposed, and today came justice. The end.