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Margaret Aspinall: There’s no victory in Hillsborough

Margaret Aspinall, the chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, lost her son James at Hillsborough. Here she writes for ITV News Granada Reports about her mixed emotions as hopes for a happier future are tarnished by new nightmares following the inquests.

A lot has been written about the Hillsborough disaster over the last 27 years. Today’s conclusions by the jury mean it will be in every news bulletin and on the front of every newspaper yet again.

People talk about the journey we, the families, have all been on. But I think of a journey as being on the way to a holiday, like the ones we used to go on to North Wales.

James Aspinall died at the Hillsborough disaster Credit: Hillsborough Inquests

This is something different.

It’s been anything but pleasant. It’s been a journey fighting for truth and justice and I don't believe that any of our families should have had to strive for 27 years to get there.

All of the documentation was there. All video coverage was there. The truth was there 27 years ago.

For families to have to fight for so long, just to get where we are today is a disgrace and shame on the system.

Any files should have been given to the families straight away. This was a needless journey that none of us should have had to have gone through.

The money it's cost the country is senseless. It’s not the families’ fault.

It's the fault of the system.

People ask how I’ve coped over the years.

We took a step at a time. Every step was like two years’ work. The next step was another two years’ work. The third step took ten years. Sometimes with each step forward, we took ten steps back.

Climbed and climbed but never got to the top.

Until now.

So how did we finally get here? We simply didn’t give up. We kept knocking on the doors that have been shut in our face. I’ve learned that they get sick of you before you get sick of them.

There's no such thing as victory for those who lost their loved ones at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989.

But hopefully we have done something in remembrance of our 96 that will be good for the future of this country.

It's not just about safety but it's also about getting things right. It's about people doing their jobs correctly. It's about people learning from lessons that should have been learned years before Hillsborough happened.

They didn't learn lessons. Let's hope this time they have.

But there’s been a cost to get to this point. We've suffered big losses along this so-called journey.

I'm talking of those who fought alongside us for years just to get to the truth, never mind justice. They didn't see it. But they could have seen it 27 years ago. That angers me.

Some died during the course of the inquests. They've sat in a court, listening to the evidence and looking at video that they hadn't seen before. Who knows how it damaged them? It’s tragic.

The inquests have been a living hell. To learn what could and should have been done to save our loved ones. We would go home each night and it was all we could think about.

Ever since the pathology evidence about James, I've had nightmares about not helping my son and nobody helping my son. And I’m not the only mother to go through that.

The aftermath at Hillsborough stadium Credit: PA Images

What gets me is the pictures of my son lying on his back on a pitch and nobody helping him. I can't get that out of my head. I wanted to get into that video and lift my son out. My son was lying on his back on the pitch and a police officer was ready to throw a coat over his face.

That to me was my worst nightmare. I just wanted to jump in that screen, put my son in the recovery position and let him know that his mum was there.

My son and 95 others were surrounded by evil that day. I’m not talking about the fans.

All we have ever campaigned for is the truth; to exonerate the supporters and, most importantly, to find out what happened to those who never came home.

The witnesses who came to the court to give their evidence didn't do it for themselves. They did it for those who can’t speak up for themselves.

We owe all of them a great debt and they have our respect.

They are heroes as far as I'm concerned. Once you get your truth, I believe you should automatically get accountability.

I don’t know what happens beyond today because we've still got to speak to our lawyers. We've got to digest what’s happened.

Today is about the families taking stock after 27 years of torture.

I gave up my family life. I missed my children growing up. They realise I did it for the right reasons but I don't want my grandchildren with a legacy of not having truth. I want to be able to move on from Hillsborough.

I’ve never missed a meeting of the Hillsborough Family Support Group in 27 years. The verdicts are out and I think my job is done. The families of Hillsborough have stood by me and believed in me as they have in my predecessors Trevor Hicks and Phil Hammond. I've learnt from good leaders.

My family will always be first but I’ll always have a rapport with the Hillsborough families and if they still wanted me in some capacity I would do it.

But, if I’ve got energy, I'd still like to be able to do something to help others.

We have reached the summit of the mountain.

Now my only hope is for happier times ahead for all those who suffered as a result of events at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989.

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