FSF national council member Roy Bentham was at Hillsborough that fateful day 27 years ago. Here he tells us about how important Tuesday's verdicts are to survivors and the city of Liverpool...
26th April 2016. This day will be remembered for generations to come for one amazing event. A city and its people were exonerated. File it along with 15th April 1989 and 12th September 2012 when the Hillsborough Independent Panel report was commissioned.
Tuesday was a little like semi-final morning, there was a surreal sense of anticipation on what significance the day would throw up.
In a humble office surrounding which had been converted into a Coroner Court in Warrington, at around 11am, the moment arrived. Nothing could prepare for what was to come.
After bringing the nine members of the jury in we cut straight to the chase. I felt overwhelmed by all manners of emotion once Lord Justice Goldring read out the verdicts. Within that contribution he said crisply and clearly “Unlawful killing”.
The hundreds of families and survivors packed into this surreal setting gasped and an audible sigh of relief reverberated around the crammed room. He then gave the other judgements and we got the 14 results we were looking for.
I broke down, unable to grasp the significance of his words. I felt relief, I felt elated, I felt sadness, and ultimately reflective.
Since the disaster I’d wrestled with my conscience over where the blame lies and why we ordinary working class people had been tarnished. Here I was witnessing total vindication. It was like winning 10 cup finals in one day.
My great schoolboy friend Brian who helped me escape the clutches of pen three and gave me the chance to write this still finds it hard to grasp how lives can be lost going to watch a match. We didn’t talk about Hillsborough for 20 years as a result.
What we witnessed on the Leppings Lane terrace will be with us till we join those who perished. I guess that’s a legacy we all have to live with as survivors. Yesterday was a weight lifted. My tears soon turned to those of joy as I saw the radiant faces of those who’d bore the burden of miscarriage for 27 years.
I’ll run that by you again. 27 years.
The more I think of that the more astonishing it was to get that result yesterday. Everton Football Club said it was the greatest result ever which shows solidarity in its purest form.
The hugs and kisses with the families rinsed me. I felt weak at the knees but strong in my heart. Reds and blues had fought as brothers in arms. These amazing people are the very fabric of society and had been shamefully denied repeatedly by the establishment.
I spoke emotionally to the one medic turned whistleblower who's ambulance was the only one that had got onto the pitch and our words will live with me forever.
We’d trod this long road to justice together. Campaigned long and hard over four decades and this was the verdict we’d been longing for.
The Hillsborough Justic Campaign, Hillsborough Familly Support Group, Hope for Hillsborough and the dearly departed Anne Williams all fought for the same outcome within the British legal system. Unlawful killing.
We had fabulous support from all over the country - from football and community organisations - I'd like to place on record my thanks here. The families' courage knows no bounds and seeing it closely is so uplifting to the soul and I feel honoured to know them. It should also give everyone hope that wrongs can be righted.
The next chapter
After sleeping on it and going back to work this morning my thoughts are now drifting towards accountability.
This chapter is closing but the next one will be all about those culpable for the day’s events and subsequent cover up. As a football supporter I can only say that the 15th April 1989 and the 26th April 2016 findings went way beyond 22 players kicking a ball about.
We are now looking into how the authorities viewed and view not just supporters but working class cities as a whole.
The precursor to the disaster was Orgreave and the conduct of the establishment and the puppeteering of the South Yorkshire Police which directly affected us on that beautiful spring day.
My over-riding message to all is raise a glass to the 96 souls who were taken watching their beloved Liverpool Football Club in a game we all love.
Let’s fight for a better future within the beautiful game. As we witnessed yesterday, a city dared to fight and got the result.
What better legacy could those who left us at Hillsborough leave for us and our children?
Thanks to Action Images for the picture used in this blog.