The painful search for justice

Eddie Spearritt lost his fourteen- year-old son in the Hillsborough disaster. He tells Eddie Gibb why he is still fighting to be heard seven years later.

is still talking obsessively about the death of his fourteen-year-old son Adam who went with his father to support Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough. ‘I’ll talk about it all day - I don’t know if it does me any good but that’s just the way I am.’ he says. Like many of the families who lost relatives at Hillsborough, Eddie finds the

After more than seven years, Eddie Spearritt

uncertainty over why the disaster ‘0".- cflmg was that

streaming into the stadium as the game began. Eddie remembers Adam passing out and begging a policeman on the other side of the fence to open a gate. Then he lost consciousness himself. ‘Adam fainted at 2.54pm,’ he says. ‘I may have lasted another two or three minutes more.’ Details like the exact time of events matter a great deal to the families of Hillsborough victims.

Although it was a Special Constable who found a faint pulse in Adam’s body and ensured that the boy was taken to hospital, Eddie can’t hide his anger at the police’s response to the tragedy, particularly in the immediate aftermath when families were identifying bodies. ‘Our crime was that we went to a football match on a beautiful sunny day,’ he says.

After the gates were eventually opened. Adam and Eddie were dragged onto the pitch where attempts were made to revive them. Unlike many who were assumed to be dead on the pitch, Adam was taken to hospital but was pronounced dead at 4.45pm.

Eddie woke up in intensive care the following day asking for Adam. ‘The staff didn’t want to tell me because my wife wasn’t there,’ he remembers. When the news of his son’s death was finally broken, he went berserk and tore out the tubes and wires of his medical monitoring equipment. Though he made a partial recovery, Eddie no longer works as a result of the injuries he suffered on 15 April 1989. He has received

happened and - crucially who we want to afootba" compensation for his injuries, but was to blame makes his already mam" on a beauuml the family has received nothing for

unbearable bereavement even harder to take. Answers to his questions won’t bring Adam back, but they may stop Eddie continually going over every second of TV footage and every inch of newspaper reporting in the hope of finding hidden clues. It’s hard to see how that can help him come to terms with Adam’s death, but it’s what he does.

Both Adam and Eddie Spearritt passed out in the crush of the Leppings Lane end at Hillsborough, where Liverpool fans were still

sunny day.’

Adam’s death.

Money is not the point, of course. but the process of seeking compensation might have thrown up some more answers about Adam’s death. The quest for answers and a desire to change the public’s view of the way the disaster was handled are the main reasons the Spearritts one of the three families featured in Jimmy McGovern’s film have backed the making of Hillsborough. ‘It is a story that hasn’t been told,’ says Eddie. ‘You never know - we might getjustice out of it.’

Eula 89mm: W tor m about his fourteen-yum“ son's death at Hillsborough

18 The List 29 Nov-12 Dec 1996



15 April 1989 Liverpool play Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-final at a neutral ground Hillsborough. home of Sheffield Wednesday. Despite their greater numbers. the Liverpool fans are allocated the smaller Leppings Lane end of the stadium. Motorway roadworks delay fans. creating a last-minute rush to catch the kick-off. At 2.52pm. the pressure of numbers force police to open a gate allowing fans into pens three and four. where the deaths occur. Shortly after kick- off. the crowd roars when the Liverpool goalkeeper makes a save, causing a final, fatal surge forward crushing fans against the perimeter fencing. At 3.06pm, a policeman asks the referee to halt the game. The first ambulance arrives on the pitch at 3. l6pm.

17 Apr" 1989 Home secretary Douglas Hurd announces the judicial inquiry into the disaster is to be headed by Lord Justice Taylor.

4 August 1989 Publication of the interim Taylor report, which criticises South Yorkshire police’s handling of crowd control at Hillsborough. Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, the senior officer in charge of policing the cup tie. is accused of ‘freezing’ as the tragedy unfolded. Chief Constable Peter Wright tenders his resignation, but is persuaded to stay on.

14 August 1989 West Midlands police is appointed to investigate the South Yorkshire force’s policing of the match.

18 April 1990 Coroner Dr Stefan Popper reopens the inquest into the deaths of 95 fans which had been adjourned shortly after the disaster to gather evidence.

1 August 1990 The final Taylor report is published. making more than 70 recommendations for safety at football grounds, including the call for top divisions in England and Scotland to introduce all-sealer stadia.

38 August 19% Director of Public Prosecutions Allan Green announces that no police officers are to be prosecuted over Hillsborough, after West Midlands officers complete their inquiry. Trevor Hicks, chairman of the Hillsborough Families’ Support Group, comments: ‘We find it unbelievable that the DPP can say there is no evidence when the whole world saw what happened.‘

28 March 1991 The inquest jury returns a 9-2 majority verdict of accidental death.

12 July 1991 South Yorkshire police announces that CS Duckenfield is to face disciplinary proceedings.

29 October 1991 CS Duckenfield retires, suffering from severe depression and post- traumatic stress disorder. The disciplinary proceedings are automatically dropped.

3 March 19% The Hillsborough death toll rises to 96 after the life support machine of Tony Bland, who has been in a persistent vegetative state since the disaster, is switched off.

3 June 19“ Courts award fourteen South Yorkshire police officers compensation totalling £1 .2 million for post-traumatic stress disorder caused by Hillsborough. Further awards are expected.