Hillsborough Inquests - Week 1

Heart's Andy Downton looks back at the first week of the fresh inquests into the deaths of the 96.

There was a slow start to the first week of the inquests as the jury of 11, with 10 reserves were picked from a pool of 150 from the local area.  They were asked two questions; do you support Liverpool, Nottingham Forest or Sheffield Wednesday football clubs? And are they available for 12 months?  This giving an indication of how long the hearings could take.

In his opening, Lord Justice Goldring said that on Saturday the 15th April 1989, "Hillsborough Stadium was the scene for the worst ever disaster a a British sports stadium".  Liverpool were taking on Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup Semi final with a capacity crowd crowd expected in Sheffield.  "A terrible crush developed in two pens within the standing terraces at the west end of the stadium.  "Those in the terraces could not escape.  A high metal fence prevented them.  "96 women, men and children died.'

The opening continues explaining about past inquests and investigations, but told the Coroner told the the jury that they must approach the hearing with an open mind, "Were opportunities lost which may have prevented deaths or saved lives?".  

Lord Justice Goldring told the court that statements made by police officers had gone through a "review process" to remove anything which could have been subjective, irrelevant or inappropriate. "Do the amendments throw any light on that crucial question: how those who came to died did so?".

On Thursday the jury started to hear 'pen portraits' of 9 of the 96 who died.  These were to give the court an idea of who the people who died were. "Their characters "their prospects". 

The widow of Patrick Thompson, 35, broke down as she said "the thing that hurts the most is the fact that my children have limited memories of their father." She then appealed to the jury: "Please listen to the evidence and let my children know that their father was not a hooligan, but a hardworking family man."

Wilf Wheelan from Warrington spoke about his 19 year old son Ian who had left two roses on his girlfriend's door step on his way to the game because he didn't want to disturb her.  "My family feel that they have had to defend his good name for 25 years".

Counsel for the Inquest Ms Christine Lambert said that it had been a "very difficult and harrowing day for all of us."

The hearing was adjourned until Monday 7th April.

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