'We finally have justice for the 96...'

A Burnley survivor of the Hillsborough disaster has said that there is justice at last for the families of the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives.

Tuesday, 26th April 2016, 4:16 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th April 2016, 5:18 pm
51 year-old Chris Whittle at his family home in Burnley. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday August 27, 2012. Chris has written a book, "With Hope In Your Heart" telling the story of his experiences during the disaster and how he dealt with post traumatic stress disorder in the years afterwards. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Reds fan Chris Whittle (54) was in Pen 4 of the Leppings Lane End when tragedy struck on April 15th, 1989, during an FA Cup match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

An emotional Chris spoke to the Express after hearing that the jury in a second inquest into the disaster found that the 96 fans were unlawfully killed.

Although he survived the crush with minor injuries, Chris still suffers from night terrors, panic attacks and anxiety. He was finally diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder last year.

On hearing the verdict Chris said on Tuesday: “Today is a very good day. The jury’s verdict is the culmination of 27 years of lies, pain and now finally justice.

“I am very emotional. We have justice for the 96 fans who lost their lives. I couldn’t sleep a wink the night before the verdict, but there is a lot of relief now.”

For many years after the disaster Chris was unable to attend football matches and is still being treated for the psychological scars.

Chris, who provided a statement to solicitors for the inquest, said he watched the findings announced live on television.

He said: “I know quite a few of the other survivors. I have not spoken to them yet but I will be passing on my best wishes to them. Sadly, a lot have passed on since he disaster.”

The findings of the initial inquest in 1989, which returned a verdict of accidental death, proved controversial because South Yorkshire Coroner Stefan Popper limited the main inquest to events up to 3-15pm on the day.

But a report, compiled by the Hillsborough Independent Panel in 2012, which looked at previously unseen documents, revealed massive failings on the part of emergency services to react to the impending disaster, and the subsequent cover-up of evidence by some members of South Yorkshire Police.

Following an application by the Attorney-General, in December 2012 the High Court quashed the verdicts in the original inquests and ordered a fresh inquest to be held, the jury for which finally reached its verdict on Tuesday.

Chris, who wrote his own book “With Hope in Your Heart” in a bid to exorcise his demons and raise money for the campaign, says he now hopes manslaughter prosecutions will follow the inquest’s verdict.

He added: “I have been interviewed by detectives from Operation Resolve. There is the possibility of criminal prosecutions.

“There were a lot of very hurtful and insulting comments written by certain sections of the media following the tragedy and these have now been proven to be lies.

“I have been back watching Liverpool for the last few years now. It has been a slow process of recovery, much like our fight for justice.”