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Bishop recalls Hillsborough tragedy

16 April 2014


Grief: Liverpool fans hold scarves during a minute's silence, during the Hillsborough 25th Anniversary Memorial Service at Anfield Stadium, on Tuesday

Grief: Liverpool fans hold scarves during a minute's silence, during the Hillsborough 25th Anniversary Memorial Service at Anfield Stadium, on...

TWENTY-FIVE years after watching the Hillsborough disaster unfold before his eyes, the Bishop of Brechin, Dr Nigel Peyton, can still vividly recall the day.

"I remember it was a beautiful spring day. I was in a pub in Sheffield before the match which was full of Forest and Liverpool fans," Dr Peyton said.

"It was very good-humoured, and full of banter, but I sometimes wonder if the people I spoke to that day are OK. We had a grandstand view of dying Liverpool fans. It was harrowing. It was impossible to forget. We watched as bodies were being laid out on the pitch."

Dr Peyton went to the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, in April 1989, to watch his team, Nottingham Forest, play Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final. But instead, he witnessed a tragedy.

"We didn't know what to do. Your instinct is to want to help, but we could do nothing. We knew something very terrible was happening," he toldThe Courier, in Dundee, earlier this week.

"It was clear that it was just far too full, and at our end of the ground we had plenty of room. Most of those who died were young people, and I was so relieved that I didn't take my seven-year-old son with me that weekend."

By the time Dr Peyton had returned home, 95 Liverpool fans had died, and more than 700 had been injured.

The memories of that day will never fade, Dr Peyton said. "I just happened to be there and it leaves an imprint forever."



He was speaking as the inquest into the disaster continued in Warrington. The original inquest, in 1989, recorded a verdict of accidental death, but this conclusion was rejected by the families of the victims.

In 2009, the Government established the Hillsborough Independent Panel to review the thousands of documents associated with the disaster. The panel was chaired by the then Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James Jones.

When it reported, in September 2012, the panel found that no Liverpool fans were to blame for the disaster. As a result of their report, the Attorney General applied for the original inquest verdict to be quashed, and the new inquest was ordered by the High Court in December 2012.

After the publication of the panel's report, Bishop Jones retired in August last year, but continued to mediate between the families of the victims and the new investigation into the disaster (News, 13 September 2013).

Alongside the second inquest, the Independent Police Complaints Commission is also investigating possible police failings which may have contributed to the deaths of the fans.

Andy Burnham, the Labour MP for Leigh and Culture Secretary at the time that the panel was established, paid tribute to the work of Bishop Jones on Tuesday.

"Thanks to [Bishop] James Jones, who more than any before him in his position has brought peace and healing to this city."

He was speaking at the 25th anniversary memorial service for the Hillsborough disaster, at Anfield stadium, on Tuesday. At 3.06 p.m., the time the game was halted in 1989, bells from Liverpool Cathedral and churches across Merseyside rang out 96 times, one for each fan who died.

The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Revd Steven Croft, tweeted on Tuesday that he had visited Hillsborough stadium on the anniversary: "Moving to visit Hillsborough this afternoon to remember the 96 who died and all whose lives were profoundly changed 25 years ago today."

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