by Jimmy McGovern, Liverpool Echo
WHAT more do the Hillsborough families want? I’ve heard it said. “They’ve had everything. The Taylor Report, the inquest, judicial reviews, a legal scrutiny and the private prosecution of two senior police officers.”
And I agree. They’ve had plenty of Law. A bellyful of Law. But they have never had Justice.
Take the case of Eddie Spearritt. Fourteen years ago today (15 April), at Hillsborough, the South Yorkshire Police ordered Eddie Spearritt, his son Adam, and hundreds of other Liverpool supporters through a gate, down a tunnel, and into the centre of two overcrowded pens.
The crowd swirled, as dense crowds often do, and Eddie and Adam found themselves at the front of the pen, hemmed in by wire and metal spikes.
On the other side of the wire was a policeman. He was looking at the ever-worsening crush but doing nothing.
Eddie called out to him that Adam was dying and that he must open the emergency gate and help the people trapped inside. The policeman clearly heard this but did nothing. Eddie lapsed into unconsciousness. Adam, his son, died.
The game was stopped at 3.06pm. By 3.40pm the pens were empty. By 4pm all the injured were in hospital. But Eddie Spearritt was not amongst them. Eddie Spearritt, desperately ill, did not reach hospital until five o’clock. Why?
The hospital was a few minutes drive away. Why did it take almost two hours to get a seriously injured man to a hospital a couple of miles down the road?
A reasonable question. A few years later, Eddie asked it of the consultant who had treated him that day. The consultant had no real answer but suggested that Eddie might have been admitted to hospital before five o’clock and considered non-urgent and put to one side.
Eddie found that difficult to accept. His injuries that day were critical. He was in a coma. He was sent to intensive care. His family was told that he might not last the night. That is NOT the type of case to be deemed non-urgent and put to one side.
There is, in fact, only one logical explanation and it is this: Eddie Spearritt was pronounced dead, probably at the ground, subsequently showed signs of life and was then rushed in for treatment.
And if Eddie Spearritt was pronounced dead, how many others were wrongly pronounced dead and denied the medical care that might have saved them?
Eddie decided to put this question to Lord Justice Stuart-Smith when, in 1997, the judge came to Liverpool to conduct a ‘scrutiny’ into the Hillsborough Disaster.
Eddie, by then, had scant faith in British judges but what little he had evaporated when, at the start of the proceedings, the judge said to the Hillsborough families: “Have you got a few of your people here or are they, like the Liverpool fans, going to turn up at the last minute?”
Sensitive souls, these judges, aren’t they?
Nevertheless the scrutiny went ahead. It was a disgrace. If you want to learn just how bad it was, buy Phil Scraton’s excellent book Hillsborough, The Truth. But, for now, I’ll simply discuss the answer he gave to Eddie Spearritt. Some records, the judge said, suggest that it was five o’clock when Eddie got to hospital. Other records suggest that it was earlier.
Other records! Eddie now went back to the consultant who had treated him and asked him if he could have a look at these other records. The consultant didn’t have a clue what the judge was on about. There were no other records. The judge had simply fobbed Eddie off.
Eddie Spearritt’s case is crucial to our understanding of the sense of injustice that the Hillsborough families feel. South Yorkshire Police, remember, kept trained ambulancemen waiting outside the ground while, inside, untrained fans fought desperately to keep fellow fans alive.
How many more lives could have been saved if the medical response had been quicker and better? That is a question that has never been put because the coroner at the inquest and the judges at the judicial review refused to allow it.
And yet Eddie Spearritt is living proof that at least one man was left for dead who should not have been. So how many others? That is a can of worms that quite a few people would like to keep shut.
* THE 4th Hillsborough Memorial Golf Day takes place at Formby Hall on Friday, July 4 with all proceeds go to the Macmillan Fund.
* To sponsor a hole or enter a team phone Phil Hammond on 0151-724 5771.