Hillsborough survivor from Dereham tells of relief at inquest verdicts

Paul Williams, from Dereham, who survived the Hillsborough Disaster. PHOTO; Matthew Usher

Paul Williams, from Dereham, who survived the Hillsborough Disaster. PHOTO; Matthew Usher - Credit: Matthew Usher

A Dereham man, who survived the Hillsborough tragedy which claimed the lives of 96 football fans in 1989, has spoken of his 'absolute relief' at today's verdicts which found that they were 'unlawfully killed' and none of the supporters who were at the game were to blame.

Paul Williams from Dereham, who survived the Hillsborough disaster, at the memorial to the 96 in Liv

Paul Williams from Dereham, who survived the Hillsborough disaster, at the memorial to the 96 in Liverpool on the day the inquest into their deaths found they were "unlawfully killed" - Credit: supplied

Paul Williams was just 18 years old when he went to watch the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool at Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday's ground with his friend Martin Jones, also from Dereham.

While Mr Jones took his seat in a different stand Mr Williams made a last-minute decision to swap his for a ticket on the terraces at the ill-fated Leppings Lane end which put him right at the centre of the disaster.

After managing to reach the pitch through a safety gate as the weight of supporters surged forwards on the terrace, he was then hauled up to a higher tier, escaping with just a scratched chest and a ripped shirt. But he was left with emotional scars that may never fully heal.

For 27 years campaigners for the 96 have battled to clear fans' names while police have tried to lay the blame firmly at their door.

Tributes at the memorial to the 96

Tributes at the memorial to the 96 - Credit: supplied


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But at the inquests in Warrington today the jury found match commander Ch Supt David Duckenfield was 'responsible for manslaughter by gross negligence' due to a breach of his duty of care.

Police errors also added to a dangerous situation at the game while the behaviour of Liverpool fans was exonerated, they said.

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Mr Williams, now 45, travelled up to Liverpool to hear the verdicts and lay flowers at the memorial to the 96 in the city centre.

'Everyone now knows what I have known for 27 years,' he said.

'I was just 18 years old and now I am a middle aged man and I had to have all that time with fingers of blame being pointed at me. Hopefully that is now in the past.

'Living in Norfolk nobody else went through the same situation, except Martin. He stayed in his seat and I swapped mine but he did not know I was safe until we met up about an hour and three quarters later.

'It did help having each other to talk to about it and it is only in the last three years that I have met up with other survivors in Liverpool.'

He said that there was a hush while they listened to the verdicts until points six and seven were read out.

'Six was the unlawful killing verdict and there was a cheer and applause,' he said. 'The same with point seven when the fans were exonerated. But it was all very dignified, no celebration, because we are so conscious of those who lost their lives and I am very proud of that.'

Mr Williams, who now works in a charity shop in Dereham, said if the police had told the truth in the beginning then 27 years of hurt could have been avoided.

'Somebody needs to be held accountable for this,' he said. 'But it was not just one policeman at fault, there were other sections of the emergency services including the ambulance service.

'Because it has gone on for so long people need to be punished for putting everyone through it.'

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