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Our Hillsborough Day. What really happened?

Written by Daniel Symons, year 10, Student Media Team 

We had a day dedicated to the Hillsborough disaster and the subsequent miscarriage of justice that followed. A typical Monday became an insightful look into the tragic events that came to fruition on the 15th April 1989 on the Hillsborough football ground in Sheffield. For the last four years, our school have hosted a Hillsborough day, but this year it was larger and more significant than usual. In April 2016, the accidental death verdict was overturned, and we learned for sure that 96 Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed.

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Our school was proud to play host to our local MP Alison McGovern and head of the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG} Margaret Aspinall. Margaret Aspinall lost her son, 18-year-old son James in the disaster, making her one of the many friends and family who lost loved ones on that solumn day.

Her story is tragic.

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Jimmy and Margaret Aspinall holding a picture of their son James.

Margaret had heard on the news that people had died but did not believe her son could be one of them, but had no way of confirming what had happened to him as there were no mobile phones around then. She waited until the last coach returned before realising something must be very wrong. She sent her husband back to Sheffield, and when he came back at 6 in the morning with his head in his hands, she ran away.

“She didn’t want to know that her son was dead – if he couldn’t tell her, then maybe it wasn’t true.“

When her husband and Margaret returned to Sheffield to see her son, he was behind a glass screen. The mother desperately wanted to give her son a hug but was told, “Sorry Mrs Aspinall; he doesn’t belong to you anymore. He belongs to the coroner.”

Margaret would spend the next 27 years fighting for justice for what happened to her son and the 95 other victims who were unlawfully killed.

Hillsborough Inquest Verdict Pic © Paul Burrows

Hillsborough Inquest Verdict
Pic © Paul Burrows

I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Margaret; it was one of the most insightful moments of my life, allowing me to understand more of the weight and sorrow the Hillsborough tragedy put on not just the families of the 96 who died, but on Liverpool fans in general.

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Daniel Symons talking to Margaret Aspinall.

What really happened at Hillsborough? For those of you still unaware of what precisely happened on the fifteenth of April 1989, allow me to inform you. It was the FA Cup semi-final, Liverpool VS Nottingham Forrest, at Sheffield’s Hillsborough ground; all 54000 tickets have been sold.

All 24000 Liverpool fans were forced to enter the ground via the west side. To keep them separate from the Nottingham fans, this, however, leaves them with only one small entrance to enter through; the ten thousand fans headed to the standing terrace in particular only had to pass through seven turn styles to get into the field.

The officer in charge of the Hillsborough ground on that day, David Duckenfield, had only been assigned to the ground three weeks before kick-off, making him inexperienced to a degree. On the day of kick-off, there was a crush outside the gate due to fans trying to get inside the ground through the tiny entrance, so Duckenfield made the choice to open gate C, which enlarged the opening which allowed more fans to pass through it.

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David Duckenfield, Police Officer in charge on the fateful day in 1989.

Image of Hillsborough ground, illustrating the extent of the overcrowding.

When he opened gate C, he didn’t cut off the Liverpool fan’s access to the tunnels that lead to the central pens three and four, positioned right behind the goal, which was starting to become overcrowded.

This meant that even larger quantities of fans were being forced into two increasingly overcrowded pens; two thousand more to be exact.

Six minutes after kick off, fans began to escape the pens by climbing over the fences, causing the match to be stopped. Many Nottingham Forest fans behaved mistakenly thought this was a pitch invasion. On the Liverpool side, 96 people were crushed to death as a result of poor and ignorant actions of Duckenfield. If it weren’t for the brave actions of the Liverpool fans in the seating area above the pens, lifting possible victims’ to safety, then more people would have indeed lost their life that day.

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Liverpool fans in the upper stalls, helping people in the overcrowded pens, get to safety.

The police were desperate not to accept blame for the incident, as even as the tragedy was unfolding, Duckenfield was already constructing a lie to blame the Liverpool fans; and so began the infamous cover-up. Part of this involved checking the dead for alcohol levels and crime history, this included the youngest of the deceased who was only ten.

In the following days, the newspaper “The Sun” published an article named “The Truth” which accused the Liverpool fans of committing disgraceful acts such as pickpocketing and urinating on the dead and causing physical harm to the police trying to give the kiss of life to those on the verge of death; acts that the Liverpool fans simply didn’t commit.

From that moment a 27-year fight for justice began, a fight to uncover all the lies that had wrongly plagued the reputation of Liverpool fans and to find those responsible for the tragedy. 96 innocent people lost their lives long before they should have, all because of the mistakes and wrongdoings of those in charge.

I believe South Wirral High School’s Hillsborough has truly revealed the intensity of the tragedy. It showed us the reality of the mistakes made that lead to the deaths of 96 people. This day is courtesy of Head of Geography, Mr Jones, who has started a petition to have the Hillsborough disaster placed on the national curriculum.

South Wirral High School students performed a poignant, powerful and incredible dance, to demonstrate the pain caused by the disaster, and the fight for justice.

Mr Jones, who brought Hillsborough Days to South Wirral, and began a petition to get the disaster in the National Curriculum, being interviewed by North West Tonight.

I advocate that people sign it on grounds that the events at Hillsborough are some of the most tragic in Merseyside history; younger generations simply must be educated on it so the mistakes aren’t repeated.”

Sign The Petition:
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/130848

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