Liverpool team pay tribute to 97th Hillsborough victim who died this week

The players and staff of Liverpool football club have observed 97 seconds of silence at their training base in Austria as a tribute to Andrew Devine, 55, who died this week due to the severe brain damage he sustained in the crush at Hillsborough in 1989.

Andre Rebello, the senior coroner of Liverpool, ruled that Devine died directly due to those brain injuries “which were to prove fatal 32 years later”, and that he is legally the 97th victim of the disaster.

In his ruling, Rebello determined that the cause of Devine’s death was the same as that of the other 96 people who died after the crush at the FA Cup semi final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium. The jury at new inquests into the disaster in Warrington concluded on 26 April 2016 that the 96 were unlawfully killed due to the gross negligence of the South Yorkshire police officer in command at the match, Ch Supt David Duckenfield.

Citing the new legal standard of proof for inquests, Rebello stated: “I find that it is more likely than not that Andrew Devine was unlawfully killed, making him the 97th fatality from the events of 15 April 1989.”

Devine, 22 when he went to Hillsborough to support Liverpool, had been looked after for the following 32 years by his parents, Hilary and Stanley, a retired police inspector, three sisters and a brother, and carers. The family have remained close to Liverpool football club, took Andrew to some home matches at Anfield, and in 2019 the team bus drove past the Devines’ house to show Andrew the European Champions League trophy.

“We have lost an incredible person,” the Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp, said, “someone who showed us all what it is to fight and who refused to give in even when the expectation was that he could fight no more.

“We are sad for Andrew, we are sad for his wonderful family who cared for him for so long and we are sad for the entire Liverpool family because another life has been cut short by Hillsborough.”

The news, announced by the family and the club together, has focused further attention for many people on the wider, catastrophic, physical and psychological impact of the disaster. More than 400 people trapped in the crush required hospital treatment, many for broken arms, legs and ribs, while some also sustained brain damage due to the loss of oxygen. Doctors at the inquests explained that most of those who died suffered compression asphyxia, after they were unable to expand their chests to breathe.

Tony Bland, 18 when he went to Hillsborough, suffered brain damage due to loss of oxygen which left him in a persistent vegetative state, and he became the 96th fatality in 1993 when a court allowed his life support to be withdrawn.

Some survivors of the crush lost consciousness and remained in a coma for several days before recovering, sustaining long-term difficulties and disabilities. One survivor, Gillian Edwards, told the inquests in 2015 that she suffered a “severe brain injury” and was in a coma for five days. She was “totally blind” when she woke up in hospital, she said, and although she recovered some of her eyesight, it remained impaired.

Recognition has also grown of the severe psychological and emotional trauma caused by the disaster, and by the false narrative of the South Yorkshire police, who relentlessly sought to blame the victims, the Liverpool supporters, rather than admit the force’s own failings.

The Hillsborough Survivors Support Alliance, formed in 2019, has worked with a psychotherapist to develop therapy for survivors and others affected by the disaster and the police cover-up. Peter Scarfe, its chairman, says 81 people have so far successfully accessed the therapy, which is not available through the NHS. The police blaming of the victims themselves has been a “massive part” of people’s trauma, Scarfe says.

Richie Greaves, a survivor who was 23 at the time, said the disaster remains a “lived experience” for him and his family.

“It has been three decades of constantly having to defend yourself,” he said. “As survivors, we have to keep shooting down the lies, for the people who never came home or can’t talk because they’re still traumatised.”

Cathy Long, a friend of Andrew Devine’s family who has remained close to them throughout the years they cared for him, said of the disaster’s impact: “Hillsborough isn’t something that happened 32 years ago, it’s an ongoing disaster that has happened every day for 32 years. To lose somebody is horrific, but it has been compounded for people by the lies told about them, the lack of justice, and the fact that it is a very public event, so there are constant reminders. It has also robbed families of so much time.”

Duckenfield was acquitted of a criminal charge of gross negligence manslaughter in November 2019. Two former South Yorkshire police officers and the force’s former lawyer were formally acquitted of perverting the course of justice after a judge stopped their trial in May.

In June, South Yorkshire police and West Midlands police, the force appointed to investigate the disaster, agreed to pay compensation for the psychological trauma caused to 600 family members and survivors by the police lies and cover-up.