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East Lancashire Hillsborough survivor publishes book about the tragedy
2:00pm Tuesday 11th September 2012 in News
A Hillsborough survivor from East Lancashire has penned a book of his traumatic experiences as official documents relating to the football disaster are due to be published for the first time this week.
Liverpool fan Chris Whittle, 51, who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of that day, has put his experiences into print in With Hope In Your Heart.
Ninety-six Liverpool supporters died in the tragedy, including 27-year-old Barry Glover, of Garnett Street, Ramsbottom.
The families of the fans killed in Britain’s biggest sporting disaster will have the first access to more than 400,000 pages on Wednesday morning. Later on the day a statement is expected to be made to MPs in the House of Commons.
A report explaining the documents’ contents will be published by the Hillsborough Independent Panel.
The supporters died in a crush at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground on April 15, 1989, in an FA Cup semi-final tie against Nottingham Forest.
A report by Lord Justice Taylor, published in 1990, found the main reason for the disaster was a failure of ‘police control’.
The victims’ families say it is an injustice that no individual or organisation has been held fully accountable for the disaster.
'I was one of the lucky ones'
Liverpool fan Chris Whittle survived the crush at the Leppings Lane end on that fateful day.
He suffered post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of what he saw and experienced.
Mr Whittle, now 51, was one of thousands of people who went to the game and watched friends, relatives and fellow fans die in front of their eyes.
He said: “There were so many people on Leppings Lane you couldn’t move really.
“Eventually, I found myself at the front, near gate C, where fans were packed up against each other – it was quite painful.
“That’s when the police opened the gate and people flooded in.
“Everyone was showing their tickets – this myth about ticketless fans, it’s just rubbish.”
Mr Whittle, of Beckenham Court, Burnley, who first attended a Liverpool game at the age of five when he was taken to Anfield by his grandfather who lived in the city, blames South Yorkshire Police’s management of the crowd for causing the disaster.
He welcomed the release of official papers as part of the inquiry into what happened that day in 1989.
“Once the gate was opened the obvious place to go was down the tunnel into the central pens,” he said. “In the previous year the tunnel was closed off when pens three and four, the central pens, were full. But that year it wasn’t closed.
“So everybody went down the tunnel, into those pens and it became overcrowded.
“I heard a lot of shouting, people saying someone is going to get killed, someone is going to get hurt. People couldn’t move.”
In September 2010, Mr Whittle did a sponsored swim at Pendle Wavelengths to raise money for the Hope for Hillsborough campaign, run by Anne Williams, whose 15-year-old son Kevin died.
Mr Whittle, who was 28 at the time, suffered cracked ribs and permanent chest damage in the disaster. He said: “I was pushed from the back into pen four and was rammed into a barrier. My chest was expanding and I got shooting pains in my back.
“I managed to get a small gap of space to push back, but then a bigger surge came again and I went to the floor.
“I got pulled up and that was when I screamed. I screamed because it hurt that much.
“We were there for quite a while as people were being pulled into the stand above. Eventually, people were getting on to the pitch and I slowly tried to make my way down to the pitch, but my legs were like jelly and I was shaking.
“I was completely out of it by then. I knew something bad had happened, but I didn’t realise at that time how many had died.
“When we were coming back in the car, on the radio the death toll kept going up and up – 30, 40, 50, 60, 70.”
Mr Whittle said he returned home a different person and endured years of nightmares, panic attacks, flashbacks, paranoia and low self-esteem.
He said: “I wasn’t the only one. In fact, I was one of the lucky ones because I came home and 96 didn’t.”
Fan's shock at scale of the tragedy
Lancashire Telegraph assistant chief sub-editor Roger Airey, who was at the game, watched in horror as motionless fans were dragged from the terraces.
As a Nottingham Forest fan growing up in Hyndburn, chances to see my hero Brian Clough and his team were few and far between.
So when my dad Nigel managed to get tickets for the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool, it was a thrilling prospect for a 14-year-old football fanatic.
The first few minutes of the game were played at a spellbinding, frenetic pace, but our attention gradually became drawn to the Leppings Lane end, at the other side of the ground to us.
Fans were beginning to spill over the fencing and, although it seems incredibly cruel to say now, the first thought of many Forest fans was that a hooligan-led pitch invasion was taking place.
At 3.06pm, the referee stopped the game and it soon became clear something more tragic was happening as hundreds of fans were now on the pitch, some sitting on the ground gasping for air, some laid motionless.
Amid the noise and confusion, frantic Liverpool fans began ripping up advertising hoardings to use as makeshift stretchers to ferry the injured to ambulances, which had eventually been let into the ground, waiting at the Forest end.
By now many Forest fans were angrily appealing to police to be allowed to help but, rightly or wrongly, officers refused.
We sat in utter shock as one after another sheets were pulled over the faces of the bodies on the ‘stretchers’ only 100 yards away from us, confirming our worst fears.
Around 4pm, unable to help, we left the ground eager to let our family know we were OK, which in the days before mobile phones meant driving several miles to find a phone box not beseiged with people doing the same thing. It was only on that grim journey home, as we listened to the radio, that the harrowing scale of the tragedy we had witnessed became really apparent.