Keighley father speaks out after start of new inquests into Hillsborough disaster deaths

Victoria (left) and Sarah Hicks, who died in the Hillsborough disaster

Victoria (left) and Sarah Hicks, who died in the Hillsborough disaster

First published in News

“At last”.

The two simple words spoken by Keighley businessman Trevor Hicks summed up the emotions of hundreds of relatives of the 96 football fans killed in the Hillsborough disaster who gathered in a packed courtroom yesterday for the start of the fresh inquests into their loved ones' deaths.

Mr Hicks and his then wife Jenni lost their daughters, Sarah, 19, and Vicki, 15, in the tragedy 25 years ago.

They were among the relatives who converged at a purpose-built courtroom in Birchwood Park, on the outskirts of Warrington, Cheshire, as a jury was selected for the hearing, which is expected to last up to a year.

Allan and Barbara Bland, of Keighley, whose son Tony, 22, was the last of the 96 to die after they secured a landmark court ruling four years after he was left in a persistent vegative state from crush injuries, did not attend due to their advanced age.

Speaking last night after the hearing was adjourned until today, Mr Hicks, a former chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said: “It’s been a long day, but it's the first of many.

“Coming here, there's trepidation, anticipation and almost excitement, although that's not the right word, it's a real mixed bag of emotions.

“At last, we're getting on with it.”

Mr Hicks’s former wife Jenni, who is vice-chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said there had been “lots of tears” in the past few days, but she was ready for the hearing to begin.

“It's been a long time coming, I've had an emotional weekend,” she said.

A jury of 11, six men and five women, along with a pool of extras, was selected, and they were sworn in when Lord Justice Goldring, a Court of Appeal judge who is acting as coroner, opened the case.

He told them: “An enormous amount has been written and said about the Hillsborough disaster and there have been programmes on television and on the radio and there are vast amounts of material on the internet.

“There may be a great temptation for you to read articles which have been published or watch programmes which have taken place, or search for material about the disaster on internet or social networking sites.

“My direction is simple, I repeat it, you must not.

“It is vitally important for any jury that their deliberations and conclusions are based only on the evidence which they hear.”

The jurors, who were warned that the inquest could take up to 12 months, had already filled in questionnaires to decide their suitability to hear the case, and were asked to say if they supported Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest or Liverpool.

Over the course of the inquests, jurors are expected to hear evidence on themes such as stadium safety, emergency planning, crowd management and the response of emergency services.

The court will also be shown never-before-seen BBC footage recorded on the day.

The Hillsborough disaster, the worst in Britain’s sporting history, happened on April 15, 1989, during Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest, as thousands of fans were crushed on the stadium’s Leppings Lane terrace.

Verdicts of accidental death from the original inquest in March 1991 were quashed in December 2012, after the Hillsborough Independent Panel delivered its final report on the disaster earlier that year.

The report, published in September 2012, cleared Liverpool supporters of wrongdoing and found that 116 police statements were "substantially altered" in an attempt to blame fans for the disaster.

The hearing continues.

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