Thousands hold vigil for victims

  • Last Updated: September 13 2012, 8:04 BST

Thousands of people gathered in Liverpool city centre on Wednesday for a vigil in memory of the 96 victims of the Hillsborough Disaster.

Thousands hold vigil for victims

Earlier, the city observed a two-minute silence at 3.06pm - the time the FA Cup semi-final was abandoned - as the bells at Liverpool Town Hall and other civic buildings rang out 96 times.

The silence was also observed at Liverpool Cathedral as a press conference was being given by the families.

Wednesday night's vigil, organised by the city council, was taking place at Liverpool's St George's Hall.

Speaking before the vigil got under way the city's executive mayor, Joe Anderson said: "This is a momentous day that the families and the city have waited 23 years for.

"It is absolutely clear for everyone to see that those affected were victims not only of a terrible event, but also of an unforgivable miscarriage of justice. They were aided and abetted by some sections of the media, who should now apologise for misleading the nation and smearing the reputation of Liverpool FC fans and the city.

"It is to the credit of families that they have never given up on their quest to find out what happened on that dreadful day.

"Now that we finally have the truth of what happened in 1989, we must make sure the families get the justice they deserve. I am calling on the Attorney General to apply to the High Court immediately to quash the original inquest verdicts so that a fresh inquiry can be held.

"Furthermore, those who played a role in the cover-up should be brought to account for their deceit and corruption. The people of Liverpool will stand shoulder to shoulder with the families as we seek to make sure they get justice they have sought for so long.

"We will never forget the impact the Hillsborough disaster had on the bereaved families, on the lives of those who were caught up in the disaster and the long journey the entire city has had to endure for the truth to be heard."

Flags at council properties have been flown at half mast throughout the day in memory of the 96.

Many people wiped tears from their eyes as the Formby Brass Band played How Great Thou Art as the proceedings got under way.

There was applause and cheers as the families passed before the crowds, led by Margaret Aspinall of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, who gave a thumbs-up and waved.

It was followed by a chorus of "Justice for the 96".

Liverpool FC were represented by Kenny Dalglish, the manager at the time of the disaster, current player Jamie Carragher and members of the youth academy, who carried lanterns in memory of the dead.

There was also applause as local MPs arrived off the train from London, where Prime Minister David Cameron had earlier apologised in the House of Commons to the families, survivors and fans.

A giant screen next to the hall displayed the names of all the victims.

Brendan Rodgers, the current Liverpool manager stood with families groups and civic leaders.

Nearby was the comedian John Bishop.

Aspinall told the crowd: "Today has been a very emotional day for all the families and everybody was there.

"To learn that 40-odd of our loved ones could have been saved was horrendous, that's why the fight will still go on for them."

She told fans that they had nothing to be ashamed of and said she hoped today would bring them peace.

Addressing the crowd, Liverpool-born shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, who was instrumental in the creation of the panel, said Hillsborough was "an entirely man made tragedy".

Turning to the families, he added: "What you have achieved, your dignity in the face of provocation, setbacks and defeat will forever inspire any parent fighting for their child.

He said the panel's dedication to their task had "exceeded all expectation".

He added: "From what I knew already and from what I have learned today I will never be able to accept or allow a verdict of accidental death to remain on the death certificates.

"We need a new inquest, a new verdict and only then can we say we have put right one of the greatest injustices in our country's history in the 20th century."

To rapturous applause, Burnham also gave a special thank you mention to Kenny Dalglish, the two time Liverpool manager, on behalf of the Hillsborough families.

Aspinall, who lost her 18-year-old son James in the disaster, said the next step for the families would be to have the inquest verdicts quashed.

"They were a disgrace, they were a mockery and the system should be ashamed of itself."

Sue Coleman, of Justice for the 96, added: "People have been ignorant of the facts because they have been told lies. They have been told lies by those they trust, by the Government, by the police.

"Now those people will believe the truth, I have no doubt about that."

Hope for Hillsborough's Anne Williams, whose son Kevin was killed, said she would now be applying to the Attorney General for a new inquest for her son.

"All the evidence is there...I will never give up," she said to cheers from the crowd.

At the end of the vigil Kenny Dalglish, Jamie Carragher, former Everton player Graeme Sharp and Ian Ayres, the chief executive at Anfield, read out the names of the 96 before the crowd sang You'll Never Walk Alone.