Father “so, so pleased” as Hillsborough jury gives ‘dreamt-of’ decision

26 April 2016

Barry Devonside, who lost his only son Christopher, 18, in the Hillsborough disaster said he had “dreamt” of the moment a jury decided the 96 victims were unlawfully killed.


Mr Devonside, who has attended every day of the inquest, said: “Today we gained the confidence from the jury that what we’ve tried to do for 27 years is to bring justice for those who never went home.”

He added: “I never thought in my wildest dreams that we would get this decision. I always hoped and dreamt that we would get this decision. I’m glad we did. We did our best – we couldn’t do any more.”

He said the conclusions delivered by the jury were “far more than expected”, adding: “I’m so, so pleased.”

Tracey Church, who lost her brother Gary in the disaster, said she was overcome with emotion following the jury’s conclusion.

After holding up a red flag that read “We climbed the hill in our own way”, she said they had campaigned for “years and years” to get justice.

She added: “It’s surreal. [I feel] emotional, shaken, happy, sad – all mixed emotions.”

Gary, who was 19, had travelled from Seaforth to Sheffield. Ms Church described her brother as “outgoing and hard-working”.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, April 15, 2014: A supporter takes a moment to look at the tributes tied to the Shankly Gates before the 25th Anniversary Hillsborough Service at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Mr Devonside said the families had been “determined to battle” on over the years despite the many knock-backs.

Married to his wife Jackie for 45 years, he said 27 of those years had been spent focusing on achieving justice for their son Christopher and the other 95 victims.

He said upon hearing the conclusion: “It was absolutely fantastic. “You will not believe what we have gone through to achieve justice, having the attitude, the dogma to battle on – the knock-backs that we have had.

“We have never given in and we have done that for 96 people but I also include in that over 700 people who received serious, serious injuries. We have to remember those people.

“It was fantastic to hear those words and I thank the jury for what they have done for the last two years, they were superb.” He added that the evidence, at times, had been “hard to swallow”.

“It’s been very difficult at times. We obviously think constantly of Christopher. He was a decent human being, but all of those people didn’t deserve to die in the circumstances – in those pens on 15 April 1989.

“It seems a lifetime ago, I know, but we were determined to battle home irrespective of the knock-backs that we have received.

“I can reflect along with my wife Jackie and say I don’t believe we could have done any more.”

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Families of the victims called for the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police and the head of the county’s ambulance service to resign immediately.

At a press conference following the verdicts of the two-year inquest, which recorded a decision of unlawful killing of the 96 Liverpool fans, the families of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign made the calls.

Stephen Wright, whose both Graham died in the tragedy, said the primary responsibility of the disaster lies at the door of the “incompetence” of the match commander David Duckenfield who had “overall command”.

“Others failed as well, but in the final analysis our loved ones would have lived but for the gross failings of the police,” said Mr Wright.

He said it was “no surprise” to the families that South Yorkshire Police have been found “comprehensively responsible” for the disaster and the deaths.

“The evidence over the past two years has been overwhelming, yet South Yorkshire Police and their senior officers have tried to look truth in the eye and deny responsibility and shift blame onto others.

“In particular, innocent football fans. For 27 years, we the victims of this tragedy have had to live with the outrage of such institutional denial.”

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He said, after publication of the Hillsborough Independent panel report in 2012, the current Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police “appeared to face up to responsibility”.

Mr Wright added: “However, such a comprehensive admission of responsibility, not only for the disaster and loss of life, but also for the dishonest and outrageous cover-up was not honoured in these current inquests.”

He said the legal teams of the force pursued “denials of the past” and blamed “mythical, late and drunken” fans for the deaths.

“For this reason, we the 22 families call for the immediate resignation of David Crompton, the chief constable,” he added.

He said Mr Crompton has let down the police force, the general public and police and fire officers there on the day in 1989 who were “traumatised” by the events.

Charlotte Hennessy, whose father James died, said from both the police and South Yorkshire Ambulance Service it was a “hopeless emergency response”, saying they “failed the 96”.

She added: “Despite having a designated unit at the ground, with two station officers, two other personnel and an ambulance, they failed to react to the disaster unfolding before them.

“From both the police and ambulance service it was a hopeless emergency response and undoubtedly increased the loss of life.”

The families also called for the current chief executive of the South Yorkshire Ambulance Service to “resign or be removed”.

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