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1991: Family anger at Hillsborough verdict

A jury has returned a verdict of accidental death at the end of the inquest into the Hillsborough disaster in which 95 football fans died.

Relatives and friends of the Liverpool football supporters who were crushed to death in Sheffield broke down in tears while others shouted and screamed as the verdict was read out in court.

Coroner Dr Stefan Popper called for a ''healing in the hearts and minds of everyone'' at the end of the 90-day inquest, the longest running in British history.

Dr Popper, who threatened to expel relatives shouting in the court, called for a series of extra security measures at football stadiums.

Crammed terraces

He also questioned whether police, who have faced most of the blame, should be involved in controlling future games.

The inquest heard harrowing accounts from fans who survived the crush at Sheffield Wednesday's ground on 15 April 1989, where Liverpool were playing Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final.

There was also police evidence of a potential disaster building up outside the terrace turnstiles just before the match and that a police decision to open a gate relieved that crush.

As fans passed through undirected, most turned into a tunnel, which led them into already crammed terraces.

Dr Popper warned the jury against a verdict of unlawful killing unless they were satisfied individuals were recklessly negligent in their actions.

'Immoral judgement'

Relatives had been hoping the jury of seven men and four women would return a verdict of unlawful killing or even an open verdict.

But the jury found by a majority verdict of 9-2 in favour of accidental death.

Families of the victims said they would continue to fight for ''justice'' and hoped to take out private prosecutions against individual police officers and the South Yorkshire force.

Outside the courtroom the relatives, many sobbing uncontrollably and scuffling with police, held a press conference.

Chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group Trevor Hicks, whose two daughters, Sarah, 19, and Victoria, 15, died, said the verdict was ''lawful but immoral''.

In Context
The final death toll from the Hillsborough disaster was 96 and 170 people were injured.

Millions of people watched in disbelief as the disaster unfolded live on national television as the fans desperately tried to escape the crush.

Within minutes the game was abandoned and supporters were passed over the fence where emergency services were scrambled to try to save lives.

Supporters suffocated or were trampled to death and within hours of the tragedy the Liverpool ground at Anfield was transformed into a shrine.

The report which followed Hillsborough led to the introduction of new measures to safeguard supporters in stadia.


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