UK & World News

  • 31 March 2014, 9:44

Hillsborough Tragedy: Fresh Inquests To Begin

The largest inquest hearing in UK legal history begins today when a jury is selected to consider exactly how the 96 Hillsborough Disaster victims died.

The opening marks a milestone for families who have been campaigning for more than 20 years to establish the truth behind the tragedy.

Interested parties have been told that the inquests may last for up to a year and will be the most comprehensive in a series of inquiries since the disaster happened on April 15, 1989.

Many relatives refused to accept that the deaths were accidental and in December 2012 the High Court in London quashed the original coroner's verdicts and called for new inquests to be held.

Despite 25 years of research and investigation it was announced only last week that 22 people have now been identified as suspects.

These include mostly retired or serving police officers.

Charges being considered include manslaughter, misconduct and perverting the course of justice.

The inquests are certain to be tense and traumatic for those taking part.

Twenty-five years ago, doctor and Liverpool fan John Ashton was one of those attending the FA cup semi-final match at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield.

He helped to set up a triage system to attend to the dead and dying.

He told Sky News: "In the end I certified dead, I thought it was six people, but the records seem to indicate five people, at the time.

"This was a very impromptu process of certification and the police tore pages out of exercise books and provided safety pins to pin them to the bodies and I just wrote on each one certified dead and the time and the date and my initials and my signature and that was that."

Children who hardly knew their fathers have grown up in the shadow of the disaster. 

Sisters Claire and Amy McGlone were aged two and five when their dad Alan was killed in the Hillsborough crush.

Claire said: "I just missed all the little things. I always wanted him to pick me up from school. 

"I just always wanted him to be there. I used to hate it when I'd be at my friends and their mum would go 'I'm just putting your Dad's tea on. He'll be in in a minute' - and I'd think well that should be me."

Claire and Amy set up their own self-contained family investigation to establish exactly how Alan died. 

Long ago they discounted claims that drunkenness had played a part in the deaths of the 96.

Amy said: "We've done all our fighting. We know that my dad was innocent. All the 96 were innocent. I just want accountability really because now we've got most of the truth here ... and people are still walking around thinking that they've done nothing wrong when they have.

"Just for people to be held accountable."

A criminal investigation called Operation Resolve runs parallel to the inquest.

Two hundred investigators have been working on this inquiry to establish who, if anyone, is responsible for the deaths. It's also providing support for the inquests.

Operation Resolve is analysing all the information collected. Over half a million documents and statements from several hundred witnesses will ultimately help to determine whether any organisations or individuals face charges of unlawful killing.

After 25 years of conflicting stories and festering suspicion is it finally possible that responsibility will be accepted, accountability upheld and that justice will have been truly served?

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