The long road to justice
Feature by The Guardian
Updated Thursday, 15th April 2004
Peter Carney of the Justice Campaign talks about his near-death experience, while Anne Williams prepares to appeal to the Attorney General for a new inquest into her the death of her 15-year-old son.Peter Carney and Anne Williams
Thursday April 15, 2004
The history of Hillsborough begins with the deaths of 96 people and the physical and mental injury of countless others. However it does not end there.
Hillsborough is a metaphor for British society today. It is a microcosm of how society operates. The history of Hillsborough has become the history of injustice, of cover-up and of collusion.
History will place Hillsborough firmly within the bounds of civil rights. The bereaved and the survivors of the disaster will long be remembered for the heroic stances they took against the might of bureaucratic forces in the name of justice.
The Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC) is made up of bereaved families, survivors and supporters campaigning for justice for the 96 people who died at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough football ground on 15th April 1989.
In 1998, nine years after a near-death experience at Hillsborough, Peter Carney was instrumental in the founding of the HJC to forge links between the survivors of the disaster, like himself, and the families of those who died at Hillsborough.
His work within the group includes counselling other survivors and people, who only now, 14 years on, are coming to terms with the disaster and opening up about their experiences.
Peter Carney didn't know it at the time, but when he entered the Leppings Lane end 10 minutes before kick-off, some fans were already dead. He was on the terrace, Pen 3, where the most of the deaths occurred.
Peter talked to The Guardian's Simon Hattenstone in 1999: "By the time I got into the pen, I was turned around and facing backwards. I was swaying and I was on my tip-toes and swivelling my hips.
"The screaming was terrible, the crush awful, but I was still straining to actually see the match. I wasn't interested in the play: I just had to keep my mind on something other than the crush, because there was less and less breath. I must have been tilting my head back to get air, and I started to focus on the stands and then the hills beyond the ground."
Peter passed out and found himself placed where several of the dead had been laid by the back wall of the terrace. People around him thought he was dead. "I had what is called a near-death experience. The last thought I had before passing out was that I was lifting myself up above the crowd. I think I was just tilting my head to get more air, but I was looking down from the clouds on the crowd below and there is a perfect circle of people all closing in on me."
Unlike the Hillsborough Family Support Group, set up days after the disaster, the HJC includes survivors, "The survivor's role in the rescue has never been looked at," says Peter, "they were lucky to come out alive, but what they went through as rescuers was never considered. There hasn't been the means to deal with the problems of the 10,000 people in the pens that day."
The families and survivors in the HJC continue the fight for justice. Anne Williams, whose 15 year old son died at the game, and her solicitors are currently preparing a memorial to the Attorney General to hold a new inquest into the death of Kevin.
The truth about Hillsborough is still denied by the authorities. Most people don't even realise that events after 3.06pm that afternoon have never been examined.
As Anne Williams says, "Kevin was 15 when he died, he was just a little boy who went to a football match and did not come home and I want people to know what extremes the system will go to, to cover up the truth about what happened to him.
"It took me nearly four years to find out what had happened to Kevin because of all the lies I had been told.
"Kevin had two inquests. Neither of them gave any answers. Witnesses were mentioned but never called, they used parts of statements so the jury never heard the full story of what happened to Kevin so I was left upset and confused.
"I decided to track down the witnesses myself, only to find out a different story.
"The coroner decided to put a 3.15pm cut off point, the reason he argued that the victims would have been dead or brain dead by that time. No evidence was heard after that time.
"Kevin does not relate to the 3.15pm cut off point. After spending hours discussing Kevin's injuries with the top forensic pathologist in this country, Dr Ian West of Guys Hospital, I found out that Kevin would not have died by 3.15pm and could have been saved.
"I tracked down five people who helped Kevin after 3.15 p.m. That day, three Liverpool fans, an off duty police officer from Liverpool and a SWPC who was on duty at the time. I found out that Kevin was lifted out of pen three at 3.28pm He was then put on a hoarding and taken across the pitch by Stevie Hart and Tony O'Keefe, both Liverpool fans. Both told me he was alive. They left Kevin with a police officer by the North Stand who told them he would look after Kevin. The police officer walked away and left Kevin. Johnny Prescott, another Liverpool fan, saw Kevin and realised he was alive and ran to get help from a St Johns Ambulance man.
"In the meantime, an off duty police officer Derek Bruder saw Kevin lying in front of a police cordon moving his head and left his seat in the North Stand to go and help Kevin. Not one of the police officers would break the cordon to help him. When Mr Bruder got to Kevin, Johnny Prescott was with him and a St Johns Ambulance man. They then carried out resuscitation and heart massage. Mr Bruder found a pulse and at 3.37pm an ambulance came on to the pitch and headed towards the Leppings Lane end of the ground. Mr Bruder shouted for someone to stop it, as he wanted to put Kevin in it. Johnny Prescott was going to try but the St Johns Ambulance man went instead. The ambulance would not stop.
"After a short time a St Johns Ambulance woman took over from Mr Bruder after shining a torch in Kevin's eyes, she said he had 'gone'. Mr Bruder was sick himself and then left the scene.
"Johnny Prescott stayed with Kevin when SWPC Martin came to take Kevin to the gym. Johnny helped put Kevin on a trolley. Miss Martin was told to stay with Kevin and carry out heart massage and resuscitation. She put Kevin in the part of the gymnasium that was set aside for the injured. Miss Martin found a pulse and after resuscitation Kevin's ribs started to move so thinking she had him alive, she picked Kevin up in her arms. It was then that Kevin opened his eyes, murmured the word 'Mum', slumped back and died in her arms at 4pm.
"After finding out the truth about what happened to Kevin, I took his case to the Attorney General asking him to give me a new inquest on him. Kevin has not had a full inquest. The 3.15pm cut off point meant the jury never heard what happened to him up to 4pm that day.
"Evidence has been suppressed, statements have been changed, there has never been a full inquiry into how Kevin died. Three times my memorial was submitted, three times it was refused. I have had a Judicial Review, a Cook Report programme and nobody will do anything to have Kevin's case reopened. If Kevin got a new inquest, evidence from 3.15 to 4.00 pm that day would have to be looked into and nobody wants to answer for the mistakes that were made after 3.15pm.
"My son was alive until 4pm. that day. He would not have died had he received a simple procedure to save his life. But because the police never implemented the Major Disaster Plan or let the ambulances on to the pitch, Kevin was left to die.
"I want an inquiry from 3.15pm to 4pm. The time nobody has looked into. The time when the disaster was at its worst.
"The only people that helped Kevin that day were the Liverpool fans. They were the people trying to do their best in a situation that was completely out of control. It should not have been left to the fans to see to the dying and injured. Where were the ambulances? They were cordoned off by the police. Why?
"If we don't get an inquiry after 3.15 pm that dreadful day, the lessons of Hillsborough will never be learnt. I want to know why my son was left to die when he could have been saved, why he did not get the treatment that could have saved him. If the police had done their job properly, Kevin would be alive today and many more. If the Liverpool fans had not thrown themselves in to help the way they did, we would have lost more than 96 people at Hillsborough."
The Hillsborough Justice Campaign will soon be moving to new premises on Walton Breck Road, opposite The Albert public house, Kop end.