Reviewed on Amazon.co.uk
Most people usually remember where they were during a significant event affecting or touching their lives: the death of Kennedy, the first landing on the moon, the Queen’s coronation, when John Lennon was shot. On 15th April 1989 I was a student and avid Liverpool supporter (and I still am). I didn’t go to many away matches and I hadn’t the means to get a ticket for the semi-final of the FA Cup between Liverpool and our arch rivals Nottingham Forest, which was being held at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. Instead, I went away for the weekend with friends to Blackpool. It was a beautiful hot sunny day, but we didn’t go out; instead, we settled around the telly in the B&B to watch the match.
A match we never got to see. What we witnessed was a real-life horror show, the consequences of which have dominated the attention of Liverpool supporters and the media for the last twenty-seven years, culminating in an inquest in 2016 and a judgement of the unlawful killing of 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives on that awful, fateful day. Most families in Liverpool know someone who was there; a member of my family went to the match and has never quite come to terms with what happened.
Expertly told through detailed eyewitness interviews, the book is well-constructed and leaves nothing out, though there is so much complex detail it has to be read carefully so that all the information can be fully understood. The stadium itself comes under scrutiny. There are health and safety concerns at Hillsborough in the years preceding 1989: fans of other clubs like Leeds United give their accounts of the anxiety they felt at the overcrowding on the terraces at matches they attended there. The book then leads on to 1989 and the journey of the Liverpool fans to Sheffield, followed by what happens when they get to the ground and realise there is a serious problem with policing and overcrowding in the Leppings Lane terrace. Chapter 3, ‘Hell’, makes for difficult reading, as does the description of how the families were treated when they had to identify their loved ones.
The book goes on to discuss the findings of the Taylor Report, the initial enquiry into the disaster, subsequent enquiries, and the years of campaigning by the families to get to the truth of what really happened on 15th April 1989, to overturn the lies that had been told and fuelled by the media and officialdom. Their goal was achieved on Tuesday 27th April 2016, exposing the failures of the policing at the match and the judgement of unlawful killing. Justice for the 96 was served at last.