On the 15th April 1989, the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield was full of heroes.
Some of those heroes were junior ranked South Yorkshire Police officers who seemed to say ‘balls to orders’ and to realise that despite the fact they were not permitted to open gates, that other human beings needed their help.
Most of the police force that day however seemed to be totally transfixed in a fog of misunderstanding; long after the dead and dying were being pulled from the Leppings Lane terraces. How could the police still think it was a case of crowd disorder when the vast majority of those that escaped the Leppings Lane terracing just collapsed on the turf? Look up pitch invasion on YouTube, and I guarantee you that no pitch invasion looks even close to the Hillsborough crowd fighting for their lives.
The majority of the South Yorkshire Police officers were still trying to react to a non-existent pitch invasion, when some of the junior officers had acted on instinct and started to help the injured and dying fans. That mind-set of control over safety led them to keep 43 ambulances full of potentially life-saving personnel to be held outside. There was a long cordon of officers along the half way line. This was presumably to stop Liverpool fans reaching the Nottingham Forrest end of the stadium. That was a massive problem though, because the Liverpool fans trying to reach the Nottingham Forrest end of the stadium were only doing so with make-shift stretchers holding critically ill men, women and children.
Today, I met with one of the latterly described heroes who had no idea that he could be described in such a way. I didn’t want to embarrass him, so I didn’t call him a hero at the time either. But he was, whether he likes it or not.
Tony O’Keefe is a fire-fighter. He’s a Scouser living in London, saving lives every other week – no doubt. On the day of the Hillsborough disaster he travelled to the match hoping to see a great game of football and a Liverpool win en-route to Wembley.
Instead, he saw chaos and death. With other Liverpool fans that day he picked up an advertising hoarding holding 15 year old Kevin Williams. Kevin was unconscious, and being carried to the end of the ground where the paramedics were being held.
Tony left Kevin with helpers after 3.30pm. However, in the subsequent inquiry the coroner stated that everybody who died at Hillsborough would have been dead, or would have suffered fatal injuries, before this time. If they were still alive, they would have been beyond saving by 3.15pm was the coroner’s verdict. The overwhelming evidence however is to the contrary of his convenient time.
Tony O’Keefe, a fire-fighter trained in first aid, was convinced that Kevin was alive. PC Bruder attended to Kevin after Tony left him at the Nottingham Forest end of the ground and he felt a pulse. Special WPC Debra Martin attended to Kevin after PC Bruder. She was adamant that she saw Kevin’s chest move, and he opened his eyes. At this point, SWPC Martin held Kevin in her arms and he murmured the word ‘Mum’ before dying; this was at approximately 4pm – 45 minutes after the coroner said no evidence would be heard. All of these real experiences were however bullied out of the officers who experienced them.
The 3.15pm cut-off means that no jury has heard about the appalling reaction to the disaster. It means that they haven’t heard about how the police, in their ridiculous fog of containment held 43 ambulances and many fire-fighters outside the stadium because they thought ‘they’re still fighting in there’.
I urge you to watch one minute of CCTV from that day, and then come back to me to explain how it is possible to see the desperate escaping of fans as a pitch invasion. If you are satisfied that it was an 80’s style pitch invasion, I’d be grateful if you could leave your serial number and rank.
Kevin Daniel Williams was a clever, bubbly, 15 year old boy. He was alive long after 3.15pm, and he wasn’t the only one.
Why won’t people hold up their hands and admit that they were wrong?
22 years later, we’re still fighting to hear the real truth said out loud.