Liverpool remembers Hillsborough 24 years on

A Liverpool banner names each one of the 96 fans who lost their lives at Hillsborough. Photo: PA

A memorial ceremony was held last night in Liverpool, on the eve of the 24th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said the event was extra special as it was the first since the families of victims fought and won justice in their campaign to clear blame for the disaster from the dead.

Today marks the 24th anniversary of the tragedy on April 15, 1989 – one of Britain's worst sporting disasters.

Around 300 people, including the families of victims and civic and faith leaders, gathered at Liverpool town hall where a permanent memorial was established on Sunday by an antique clock with the time frozen at 3.06pm - the exact time that the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest was stopped as officials realised fans were being crushed on the terraces in Sheffield.

Mayor Anderson said: "Twenty-four years, the passage of time has still not dulled the pain and suffering for those of you gathered here today."

The Mayor said the 96 were "robbed of their dignity by the people in authority" who indulged in "lies and deceit" rather than admit their mistakes.

But the families who fought the official version of events "exemplified" the fighting spirit of the city of Liverpool, to never give up.

Last September, the Hillsborough Independent Panel (HIP) laid bare a shocking cover-up which attempted to shift the blame for the tragedy on to its victims.

"You pursued the truth, they peddled lies. You stood up for what's right," the Mayor said.

"The authorities' role in Hillsborough is our country's shame. A national disgrace."

The ornate 1780s clock, from the collection of National Museums Liverpool, was made by renowned clock maker John Clifton.

A brass plaque accompanying the memorial reads: "This clock is stopped at 3.06pm in memory of the 96 fans who went to a football match and never came home.Hillsborough, 15th April, 1989."

Prayers were said and the hymn Abide With Me sung by a soloist, before a minute's silence was held to remember the dead.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel was set up by then home secretary, Jacqui Smith, amid a wave of public pressure on the 20th anniversary of the disaster and following years of campaigning by the Hillsborough families.

Following publication of the report, the original inquest verdicts were quashed by the High Court in December and fresh inquests are due to take place.

There is also a major investigation into the scandal by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Margaret Aspinall, who lost her son James in the disaster and is chair of the HillsboroughFamily Support Group, attended Sunday's event at the Town Hall, ahead of major commemorations on the anniversary on Monday.

She said: "I think it's going to be an emotional day for everybody but also I think it should also be a bit of a celebration for the fans and survivors there that day, because they went through so much and it's the first time in all these years that we have had the truth out.

"I think that for me is very, very powerful - for all of them, to be able, all of them to remember, but also to celebrate their achievements with the campaign to get to the truth.

"People have said you know, it's been a journey for all these years.

"It has been a journey, but it's been hell. It's not been a pleasant experience."

Later on Sunday a seven-foot bronze monument was unveiled in Liverpool city centre carrying the names of the 96 people who died.

The bronze sculpture, created by local artist Tom Murphy, was dedicated to the victims at a public ceremony, watched by hundreds of people, on Old Haymarket.

Alongside the names of the victims, it features the words "Hillsborough Disaster - we will remember them".

Sheila Coleman, chair of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, campaigned for a memorial in the heart of the city, alongside the 'eternal flame' memorial at Liverpool FC's home in Anfield.

She thanked the public effort to raise funds for the monument, urging the support to continue. She said: "Until Hillsborough goes down in history for what it was, the unnecessary deaths of 96 people caused by the state. Justice for the 96."

David Charters, who composed a poem inscribed on the monument, said: "In life, few words carry more sorrow than, 'they died before they were old.' The sense of loss is always raw.

"What's lost is not the past, but the future."

Families of the victims were then invited to view the monument, many in tears, touching and kissing their loved one's names, among the 96 inscribed on the memorial.

More events are planned for the anniversary on Monday with a memorial service at Anfield.