The 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest will forever be known as one of the most tragic events in the history of football.
On a sunny spring day, scores of football fans went to watch their team play in the final stages of Britain’s domestic cup. Heartbreakingly, almost 100 of these fans lost their lives in an event that rocked the nation.
The tragedy has the highest death toll in British sporting history, claiming the lives of children, women and men.
What followed is also shamefully etched into the UK’s modern history, as certain parts of the media blamed fans for the tragedy and claimed some had picked the pockets of the dead.
Establishment lies and media smears prevented the families of the victims from finding justice in a major failing of the British legal system.
For over 30 years, the families of the Hillsborough Disaster victims have been hunting for the truth of what happened on that terrible day.
When was the Hillsborough Disaster?
The Hillsborough Disaster took place on April 15, 1989, at one of the semi-finals for that year’s FA cup.
The game saw Liverpool playing against Nottingham Forest, but the match took place at Hillsborough Stadium as it was a neutral venue.
The stadium remains the home of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, which it became when the grounds were opened in 1899.
What happened during the Hillsborough Disaster and how many people died?
Liverpool fans had gathered at Hillsborough Stadium to watch the game, but as crowds built up a huge crush led to hundreds being injured and 97 fans losing their lives.
Match commander Ch Supt David Duckenfield had ordered for an exit gate at the stadium to be opened, by the Leppings Lane turnstiles.
This was to be a fatal decision as thousands of Liverpool fans made their way through to the terraces that were struggling for capacity.
Mercury Press & Media)
The arrival of so many new bodies in the stand’s central pen caused the massive crush, claiming the lives of the 97, whose ages spanned from 10 to 67.
Duckenfield claimed that the gate had been forced by the fans, a claim that was later reiterated during media briefings – the lie caught on and the blame shifted to “drunk and ticketless” fans.
The Sun newspaper then published one of the most infamous headlines in media history, claiming Liverpool fans “urinated on police officers” and “picked the pockets of the dead”.
An enquiry in January 1990 concluded that the failure to close off the tunnel was “a blunder of the first magnitude” and that the match commander “failed to take effective control”, according to Lord Justice Taylor.
In September, 2012, the Hillsborough Independent Panel (HIP) released a report into the tragedy, criticising the emergency responses. Later that year, a new inquest was ordered to look into the tragic event, while Theresa May announced a new police inquiry for it.
It wasn’t until March 2015, almost 26 years on from the Hillsborough Disaster, that David Duckenfield admitted his failure to close a tunnel “was the direct cause of the deaths of 96 people”.
The most recent victim died in 2021, taking the total number of deaths to 97.
In April 2016, inquests and trials led to the court ruling that the victims were unlawfully killed and that fans played no part in the deaths.
Who was Anne Williams?
Andrew Teebay/Liverpool Echo)
Anne Williams played a pivotal role in campaigning for justice for the victims.
The mother of three from Formby, Merseyside, pushed tirelessly for new inquests after the initial inquests ruled the deaths had been accidental.
Her 15-year-old son Kevin was among the 97 killed in the tragedy. Sadly, she passed away in April 2013.
Her story is being told in the new ITV drama, Anne. It airs on consecutive nights this week, from Sunday, January 2, to Wednesday, January 5, at 9pm each night.