20th anniversary of Hillsborough disaster: Thousands gather to remember the 96 killed (Hillsborough Disaster)

Thousands gathered today in the cities of Liverpool, Nottingham and Sheffield to mark the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, when 96 Liverpool fans were killed at Hillsborough Stadium, the worst disaster in British sporting history.

Fans today gathered at Anfield, Liverpool's stadium, for a special service. Prayers were read out and hymns were sung. Kenny Dalgleish, who was the Liverpool manager on the day of the disaster, read out a passage from the Bible.

On 15th April 1989, Liverpool played Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-final for the second year in succession. The match was played at Hillsborough Stadium, the home of Sheffield Wednesday.

In those days, most British football stadiums had terraces, in which the fans stood to watch games, and many stadium had steel fences and barbed wire between the terraces and the pitch to stop fans getting onto the pitch.

On this particular day, the Liverpool supporters, for some bizarre reason, were assigned to the Leppings Lane end of the stadium, which held 14,600 fans, even though there were much more Liverpool fans.

With many more fans entering Leppings Lane end than it could sustain, it was inevitable that tragedy would occur.

The result was that an influx of many thousands of fans through a narrow tunnel at the rear of the terrace, and into the two already-overcrowded central pens, caused a huge crush at the front of the terrace, where people were being pressed up against the fencing by the weight of the crowd behind them. The people entering were unaware of the problems at the fence—police or stewards would normally have stood at the entrance to the tunnel if the central pens had reached capacity, and would have directed fans to the side pens, but on this occasion they did not, for reasons which have never been fully explained.

For some time, the problem at the front was not noticed by anybody other than those affected; the attention of most people was absorbed by the match, which had already begun. It was not until 3:06 pm that the referee, Ray Lewis, after being advised by the police, stopped the match several minutes after fans had started climbing the fence to escape the crush. By this time, a small gate in the fencing had been forced open and some fans escaped via this route; others continued to climb over the fencing, and still other fans were pulled to safety by fellow fans in the West Stand directly above the Leppings Lane terrace. Finally the fence broke under pressure of people.

Fans were packed so tightly in the pens that many died standing up of compressive asphyxia. The pitch quickly started to fill with people sweating and gasping for breath and injured by crushing, and with the bodies of the dead. The police, stewards and ambulance service present at the stadium were overwhelmed. Uninjured fans helped as best they could, many attempting CPR and some tearing down advertising hoardings to act as makeshift stretchers.

The disaster was shown live on British TV programme Grandstand by TV cameras which were there to film the game for Match of the Day.

In those days, football fans were a hated bunch of people by the British public, who often saw them as thugs, and many British football stadium were death traps with their all-standing tiers and steel fences, and the police often treated fans at stadiums as though they were nothing more than a herd of cattle. Just four years earlier, on 11th May 1985, 56 fans were killed at Valley Parade stadium, the home of Bradford City, when a massive fire completely consumed one whole side of the stadium during a game against Lincoln City.

Around half of the Hillsborough victims were teenagers or children, and they included the cousin of Liverpool and England star Steven Gerrard.

But, since 1989, football stadiums in Britain have been made much safer, and all stadiums are now all-seaters ones only, and fences and barbed wire no longer exist, so another tragedy like Hillsborough is unlikely.

They'll never walk alone: Thousands gather to remember 96 victims of Hillsborough disaster

By Daily Mail Reporter
15th April 2009
Daily Mail

96 fans were killed during the Hillsborough disaster of 15th April 1989, Britain's worst ever sporting disaster. Many victims were tended to on the pitch.

Crushed to death: The horrific scene in the Liverpool enclosure where overcrowding led to the death of 96 supporters

United in mourning, tens of thousands of people gathered today to mark the 20th anniversary of Hillsborough - Britain's worst sporting disaster.

At a packed Anfield stadium, bells rang out in memory of each of the 96 football fans who were crushed to death during the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

As the families of the victims took their places on the Kop, the ground's famous stand, the crowd of up to 30,000 people gave them a huge round of applause.

There were also loud cheers and clapping for a group of Celtic fans who laid two banners on the turf emblazoned with 'Justice for the 96' and 'You'll never walk alone'.

At exactly 3.06 pm, the moment the tragic game was called off, a two-minute silence was perfectly observed in the stadium.

Across the city a two-minute silence was also held throughout Merseyside and in Nottingham's Old Market Square.

Liverpool fans pack the stands at Anfield during the memorial service at the stadium marking the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

Relatives of those killed in the tragedy gather to pay their respects and leave tributes to the victims, at the Hillsborough Memorial outside Anfield

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard and manager Rafael Benitez attend the memorial service

Workers had poured out of offices to join shoppers standing still, heads bowed in the mid-afternoon sunshine.

As the service continued, a candle was lit in memory of each victim and their names were read out.

People continued to pour into the stadium and stewards opened the Anfield Road stand.

The crowd stood solemnly as the two-minute silence was held.

At the end of the silence, church bells from around Liverpool could be heard ringing out 96 times.

In one sour note, Culture Minister Andy Burnham was heckled by some sections of the ground as he attempted to pass on a message from Gordon Brown.

When Mr Burnham said the 96 dead will never be forgotten, some fans heckled and the crowd broke into a chant of 'Justice for the 96'.

Many of those in Liverpool are still angry that no one has been made responsible for the disaster.

Mr Burnham waited for the singing to fade before continuing his speech, but he had to contend with several more hecklers before returning to his seat.

All across the city bells could be heard ringing for the 96 victims.

In the city's main streets and shopping thoroughfares public transport stopped and motorists pulled over to take part in the impeccably-kept silence.

Mourners gather during the two-minute silence in Nottingham's Old Market Square to remember the Liverpool football fans who died in the disaster

Football scarves are tied to the Shankley Gates next to the Hillsborough Memorial at Liverpool's stadium Anfield ahead of today's 20th anniversary of Hillsborough

Former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalgleish bows is head in remembrance as a bed of flowers spelling out '96' is laid before the Hillsborough memorial at Anfield

In Exchange Flags - a public square behind the town hall in the heart of the city's business district - hundreds of men, women and children formed an impromptu circle of solidarity.

For some the emotion was too much.

They wiped tears from their eyes as thoughts were concentrated on the scores of families torn apart by Britain's worst sporting disaster.

When the silence finally ended spontaneous applause rang out.

People patted each other's backs, shared a word and returned to their day.

Dalglish, who was Liverpool's manager when the disaster took place, read from the Bible, Lamentations of Jeremiah.

Margaret Aspinall, vice-chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, gave the second reading from the Letter of St Paul to the Romans.

Sue Joyce, 43, from West Derby, Liverpool, said: 'We've come here today to show the victims and the families of those who died that we have not forgotten what they have suffered.

"It may be 20 years since the disaster took place but those that were there will always be in the thoughts of every Liverpool fan around the world.'

The Bishop said the tragedy 'broke the heart but not the spirit' of the community.

He said: 'On this the 20th anniversary of the tragedy at Hillsborough, which broke the heart but not the spirit of our community, Her Majesty the Queen has asked me to say that her thoughts and prayers are with us and all those affected by the tragedy.

'For many here today it seems still like yesterday. Those we lost always in our minds.

'Never a day passes without a thought of what their tomorrow might have been, without that longing for justice for their sake as well as for ours.'

Hundreds of floral tributes, scarves and football shirts of all colours were laid outside the Hillsborough memorial and tied to the Shankly Gates outside the Kop on Anfield Road.

Groups of people stood, hugged and some wept as they looked at the names of those who died in Britain's worst sporting disaster.

Liverpool supporters queue to enter the memorial service at Liverpool's Anfield stadium

At the centre of the memorial burns an eternal flame, signifying that the 96 victims will never be forgotten.

A representative of each family will be awarded the Freedom of Liverpool.

Liverpool's Lord Mayor, Steve Rotheram, said: 'Hillsborough affected so many lives, not just on Merseyside but across the whole of the UK.

'I attended the match 20 years ago and the passing years do not diminish the importance and the poignancy of this occasion.'

Flowers and scarves are laid in piles outside Anfield before the memorial service

Hundreds of scarves adorn the Bil Shankly gates at Anfield as fans pay their respects

Sheffield marked the anniversary of Britain's worst sporting disaster quietly.

In Sheffield, around 300 people attended a brief memorial service at Hillsborough stadium.

Many of those at the ground broke down in tears as they observed a two-minute silence at 3.06pm.

The short service was held by a vicar in front of the memorial at the main entrance to the stadium's South Stand.

The memorial was draped with Liverpool flags and red and white flowers, while a carpet of flowers, flags and other tributes had been laid at its base.

Many people spent time looking at the tributes before visiting the Leppings Lane end of the stadium, which was opened to members of the public to pay their respects.

An inquiry into the disaster - presided over by Lord Justice Taylor - criticised senior police officers on duty at the match for a "failure of control" and recommended the introduction of all-seater stadia.

An injured fan is pulled to safety onto the pitch as the true horror of the tragedy dawns

Liverpool fans are pulled to the safety of the upper tiers at Hillsborough, as they try to escape the desperate overcrowding that lefty 96 dead

Families of the 96 remain determined to fight for further inquiries into the deaths.

They believe a Major Incident Plan was never initiated by South Yorkshire police and Liverpool fans were denied emergency medical attention.

A single inquest was held covering all the victims, recording a verdict of accidental death.

Anne Williams, who lost her son Kevin, 15, is preparing for a fourth legal bid to reopen his inquest.

Mrs Williams, 66, from Chester, disputes official records which state all the fans who lost their lives at Hillsborough were dead or brain dead by 3.15pm.

She said: 'It is a big can of worms but it needs to be opened because the verdict of accidental death is wrong.

'Why has no individual or group been held to account for the worst disaster in British sporting history?'

The Prime Minister spoke to the football club's television channel ahead of today's 20th anniversary of Britain's worst sporting disaster.

The premier attacked wildly inaccurate press reports of Liverpool fans being to blame for the horror show and described Reds fans as 'magnificent'.

He told Liverpool's own television channel that Liverpool fans were 'so respected throughout the country' for their actions on 15 April 1989.

He said: 'People will never forget that day; it's etched on our memories.

'I remember how the Liverpool fans helped each other, coming to the aid of people who were in difficulty and trying to rescue fellow fans - both young and old.

'I don't think we can ever forget the 96 people who died.

'Families, in trying to cope with this disaster, have had the support of all decent minded people across the country.

'That's probably what matters most - that people understood that the behaviour of Liverpool fans in helping each other was magnificent.'

Tory leader David Cameron said: 'Hillsborough was without doubt the most horrific event in British sporting history.

'The ongoing support from both the club and the city to families caught up in this tragedy has been marked by the strong sense of compassion and solidarity that we've all come to associate with the people of Liverpool.

'My thoughts are with the families of those who lost loved ones on that tragic day 20 years ago.'

Last edited by Blackleaf; Apr 15th, 2009 at 11:27 AM..
Horrible. How could anything like that have ever happened???