A banner reading Truth and Justice is hung from Liverpool’s Saint George’s Hall and illuminated in red after today’s Hillsborough inquest verdict on April 26, 2016 in Liverpool, England. The fresh inquests into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 football supporters were crushed to death, concluded today on April 26, 2016 with a verdict of unlawful killing, after the initial verdicts were quashed. Relatives of Liverpool supporters who died in Britain’s worst sporting disaster gathered in the purpose-built court to hear the jury’s verdict in Warrington after a 25 year fight to overturn the accidental death verdicts handed down at the initial 1991 inquiry.
Stephen Whittle worked for 20 years at PPG Industries, a fibreglass firm in Hindley Green, just a few miles from his parents’ home in Greater Manchester. He lived quietly, saved regularly. He liked music and was crazy about football, particularly his beloved Liverpool. He laughed easily and got on well with his parents. Then, on 26 February last year, he went to a nearby railway line and leapt in front of an oncoming train.
A work commitment on 15 April 1989 meant Stephen was forced to sell to his friend a ticket to watch Liverpool play Nottingham Forest in the semi-final of the FA Cup. His pal died that day, one of the 96 who perished in the tragedy. Survivor’s guilt haunted Stephen, fermenting for more than two decades until, 18 months ago, he found desperate release, becoming the 97th victim of Hillsborough. He left £61,000 to the Hillsborough families in his will.
He had headaches but he never showed it, not one bit.
We never knew a thing. It was at the inquest. We would not have known it if the doctor hadn’t gone. He had never been suicidal. He had just brought a new TV and DVD. We couldn’t believe it: it was a horrible experience.
As bitter truths about Hillsborough emerged last week, Stephen’s family was left asking: would he have overcome his demons if the truth had come out sooner? Why was he never given a chance for closure?
Every year on the 15th of April, the football world comes together. The world game stops worldwide and remembers those who were lost on that day at Hillsborough in 1989. A day where 96 football fans followed their team to a match and never returned. Every year, on this day, rivalries are lost and all focus turns to remorse, in remembrance of the fans that never returned. In a day where football is so important, some things are more important than football.
So if you’re a player, family, a fan or anyone at all involved in this wonderful football club, remember the 96 who lost their lives at Hillsborough and most importantly remember, You’ll Never Walk Alone.