David Preece: Those responsible for Hillsborough tragedy should be left to walk alone

Floral tributes left at a Hillsborough memorial
Floral tributes left at a Hillsborough memorial
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I know exactly where I was around 3pm on the April 15, 1989 - sat on the edge of my school friend Mark McKenna’s bed in his house just off Hastings Street in Hendon, watching the TV as news filtered in from Hillsborough.

I was 12 at the time, old enough to be scarred by the hostility inside football grounds in the 80s.

‘Justice’ may be what has been won this week, but it seems such an inadequate word to atone for the pain caused.

I’d been hit by part of a seat that someone had ripped out and aimed it at opposition fans during the run to the Milk Cup final in 1985.

As an eight-year old, I’d sat on the sofa with my dad that same year and watched the tragedy of Heysel unfold, not knowing the full extent and its cause but sensing from my dad’s expletives how bad the situation was.

It was the first time I’d ever heard my dad swearing, a very rare occurrence as I later learned.

Hillsborough was different though.

As much as we think ‘It’s ok, they don’t understand’, kids are aerials for emotion.

We might be too young to understand but we can pick up on and differentiate between positive and negative.

I didn’t sense any anger that Saturday afternoon, not initially anyway.

I’d experienced the rush caused by the threat of danger inside football grounds before that, the animosity between the segregated fans.

I’d felt my dad’s anger at what happened in Brussels but this time anger was absent. Only quiet and a dark sadness that hung in the air like thick fog. Grief no words could console.

That sensation seemed to be symptomatic of the times. If I replay the 1980s in my head, it’s like an old black and white Pathe newsreel, the colour ripped out of it by Margaret Thatcher, miners’ strikes, shipyard closures, the John Hurt narrated adverts warning us of AIDS, and the disasters of Heysel, Bradford and Hillsborough that befell football.

It felt bleak.

It’s difficult to put yourself in the place of the families of the victims but just imagine the colour drained out of your life for 27 long years, stuck in 1989.

Deprived of the closure for so long has drawn out their grief, like a funeral service that has lasted almost three decades.

‘Justice’ may be what has been won this week, but it seems such an inadequate word to atone for the pain caused.

It will come as little, if any, consolation to those directly affected by the disaster, but out of the utter devastation of Hillsborough came the improved stadia and safety of football fans inside them ensuring this would never happen again.

Acknowledgement and thanks should be given eternally to the victims who died that day from every single fan who attends a football match today. Their lives have ensured that you keep yours.

I’d given a second thought to writing about the outcome when it was announced on Tuesday morning, thinking there was nothing left to add, certainly nothing better writers closer to the subject hadn’t already written, but after seeing the lack of acknowledgement on the front pages of some major outlets yesterday morning, I felt compelled to acknowledge them myself.

To acknowledge the bravery of those families and the tenacity they showed to fight for what was right whilst swimming against a tide of lies, smears and cover-ups, despite the obstacles thrown in their path.

There’s an even wider angle to all of this of course.

Hillsborough has grown beyond football’s disaster, it’s a hideous stain on this country’s history.

Regardless of the distance in time between then and now, the fact it has taken so long to get to this put having met such resistance tells its own story, for if we can’t trust our government and the people who police us, who can we trust?

It feels like we’re falling back into the sepia of the 1980s, losing all hope in those from who we expect “the truth” and honesty.

This whole process has shown that we are right to have lost faith in the politicians and authority, if we ever had any at all, and it’s left to the likes of the late Anne Williams and everyone else who has campaigned tirelessly and prevailed, to show us what truth, honesty and integrity really means.

Mistakes and errors of judgement can be made and forgiven because they are only just that.

What is unforgivable are the denials, the lies and the transfer of blame and slurs onto innocent people.

Together, hand-in-hand, the people of Liverpool can hold their heads up high while those responsible should be left to walk alone.