Sunderland football fan who witnessed horrors of Hillsborough delighted that families have won justice
A football lover who witnessed the horrors of Hillsborough has spoken of his joy after long-suffering victims of the 96 fans killed in the disaster finally won their fight for justice.
Ray Matthews was a member of the Northern League Management Committee when he managed to secure sought-after tickets for the FA Cup final clash between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
Like thousands of other fans from both clubs, he made the trip to South Yorkshire simply in the hope of seeing a sporting spectacle served out by two of the giants of the game.
But 96 Liverpool supporters never returned from their day out cheering on their heroes in red - and those, like Mr Matthews,, who survived, still bear the emotional scars from the horrific events that unfolded.
The 61-year-old, who is originally from Horden and now lives in Sunderland, says he still can't fathom how football supporters wherever blamed for the tragic events.
But he dearly hopes families who have fought so hard to clear the names of the loved ones can take comfort that justice has finally been done.
The jury in an inquest that heard two years of evidence into the disaster concluded that the 96 supporters were unlawfully killed and that errors from South Yorkshire Police contributed dangerous overcrowding that led to an awful crush in the Leppings Lane end of Sheffield Wednesday's home ground.
Mr Matthews, who is a committee member at Seaham Red Star FC, says the awful timeline of events will live with him forever.
He said: "We were near the corner flag in the main stand.
"It is 27 years ago but I know I will never get over it.
"I have suffered emotionally because of it.
"I was down the pit as a miner for over 16 years but I have never had an experience like that.
"I remember my brother saying a young girl was brought over and was blue in the face.
"Then she had a blanket put over her.
"It is something that is always on your mind."
Mr Matthews said he was unable to make contact with his father until hours after the tragedy unfolded to tell him that he and his brother were safe.
The unbearable reality of the disaster was brought back into sharp focus for Mr Matthews when the Hillsborough inquests concluded.
He is relieved the families of those who lost their lives can finally have a sense of closure - and that the truth has finally come out.
He added; "I don't know how the police could ever blame the supporters.
"I am happy that the inquest jury have reached the conclusions that they did.
"It has been far too long a wait, but justice has now finally been done."