After Hillsborough I fought for justice for 27 years
By Becky Shah
I lost my mum when I was 17. She left one day to go to a football match, and I never saw her alive again.
This year we finally proved that she lost her life as a result of tragic failures by the police, ambulance services, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club and others. We now know that she died that day because of mistakes they made.
But it’s been a long and painful journey to get here. And now the Human Rights Act, the very mechanism we relied on for truth and justice, is being threatened.
My mum was very fun loving, very happy person. She had a smile that could light up the room. She introduced me to Liverpool Football Club and we used to go and watch matches together all the time.
I would have been there with her that day if I could have got a ticket. But instead I watched from home live on the TV. And as I saw the disaster unfold, I felt in my gut that she was gone.
My mum always stood at the front at football matches because she was tiny – she was 5’2. That day she was standing right by the perimeter fence with our friend Marian. They died together.
My mum’s body had fence marks on her hands and face from where she was crushed. But until the inquest this year, I was kept in the dark about her last moments.
Failed by police
Our friend Steve had to go and identify the bodies and give a statement early on Sunday 16th April – just hours after the disaster. He told me South Yorkshire police officers asked if he was 'shagging my mum'. Steve's reaction was one of shock and disbelief, he broke down crying. My little 13 year old brother was sitting in the next room, bereaved, orphaned and traumatised.
About two weeks later my brother and I had statements taken by West Midlands police officers. It was two days after my mum's funeral. West Midlands were the 'independent' investigating force. No adult was present when both my brother and I gave separate statements. We were both wards of court at the time.
My brother told me they tried to get him to say my mum and Marian and all our friends had been drinking before the match. They asked him if my mum drank a lot at home, if she had several boyfriends, and if she went out drinking with these boyfriends. My brother was so traumatised by their questions that he was not able to talk about this until 2014.
The police attempted to completely dehumanise all the deceased and survivors by calling them 'drunken hooligans' and lying about the causes of the disaster to try to cover up their culpability for the event.
The smearing of my mum's good name was totally abhorrent, reprehensible and so deeply upsetting.
It also demonstrates the extent the police forces went to demonise the 96 victims and Liverpool fans. I have known about this since the night of my mum's funeral. It has affected Steve, my brother and I immensely. As a result of this smearing, and the disaster and subsequent cover up, our mental health has suffered, as we have severe Post-Traumatic Stress.
The inquest revealed that my mum had died relatively quickly in comparison to some of the other victims because she was so small. There are police officers who say they saw her begging for help. One of them tried to give her the kiss of life through the fence, but she shuddered and died.
The actions of the police at Hillsborough and in the years that followed have left me with lifelong trauma. It has affected us immensely. As a result of this smearing, and the disaster and subsequent cover up, our mental health has suffered. Their lies and smear campaigns lasted decades. I had to wait over a quarter of a century to find out the truth about what really happened to my mum.
Keeping us in the dark
For decades everyone who was culpable in the disaster did their utmost to keep all of us families, survivors and fans in the dark about the truth of what happened that day.
But they couldn’t keep us in the dark forever. The determination of our campaign and the power of the Human Rights Act were crucial in securing the verdict on 26 April 2016 - the day when the light finally shone on our families again.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.