Monday, 10 July 2017

Book Review: With Hope In Your Heart by Christopher Whittle

The Hillsborough Disaster - Saturday, the 15th of April 1989 - when 96 innocent men, women and children lost their lives, in Britain's worst ever sporting disaster. With hope in your heart: A Hillsborough survivor's story, the denial of justice & a personal battle of PTSD - is the real, shocking story of Hillsborough. It is unique as it is written through the eyes of a survivor. 

It is told by someone who witnessed at first hand all the death and carnage from Pen 4 - one of the two central pens in which the majority of the 96 died. It shockingly tells of the glaring police failures, the lies, the cover ups, the fabrications, the suppression of evidence and the blatant denial of justice over almost a quarter of a century in the biggest single miscarriage of justice in the history of the British legal system. It tells of the bravery of the survivors and the bereaved families in their quest for truth and justice, and tells the shocking reality of what lengths that government, the police, the judiciary, writers and the media will go to, in order to hide the truth.

My Review:
I watched the Hillsborough match coverage on TV and it didn't take long to see that something bad was happening. It didn't look like a violent pich invasion which you sadly see at games in the UK and elsewhere. You could see fans wandering around in a daze, head in their hands and then using the advertising boards as stretchers while the police were more interested for the most part in stopping fans going beyond the halfway line. A few police officers did do good things that day but ambulances were not coming onto the pitch. Then watching the lies printed in the media about dead bodies being looted, drunken fans crashing down the gate and fans urinating on police offers doing CPR plus the coverup from the police sickened me. It is only now years later that the fans have been vindicated. This is why I wanted to read this book. I went to the football with my friends every week. You should never go to a football match and not come home.

Chris went to the game and was at the infamous Lepping Lane gate as the crush was beginning and he heard the fateful order to open it up. As anxious fans flooded in he describes the lack of stewards directing them to the emptier outer pens, so instead everyone rushed down the tunnel to the middle pens and fans began to get crushed, Chris amongst them. His description of being crushed and unable to breath was frightening. He describes the surges which all had to be survived, others disappearing around him under the mass of people and almost dying. It is shocking stuff. He tells of the dazed aftermath as he left the stadium and how the kind people of Sheffield took the stunned fans into their homes to let them contact relatives and recover from their ordeal.

Chris then starts to talk about the failings of the people in authority. The makeshift morgue where grieving relatives were not permitted to be alone with their dead loved ones. How the families were quizzed about if their loved one had a ticket and how much they had been drinking. The police were in coverup mode, feeding lies to the media and government about the bad behaviour of fans. The Taylor Report DID exonerate fans and blame the police but the following enquiry was a whitewash. The coroner from the day excluded evidence that didn't suit him, the old lies were trotted out, witnesses with critical evidence were not called, police witness statements were changed and officers bullied into lying. Tapes from the police control room from the match were 'stolen' in an alleged break in.

All people like Chris wanted was the truth and it is only now that the truth has come out and justice may finally be served. It is no surprise that the poor guy suffered for years with PTSD. I hope he gets some relief from the recent developments.
Read May 2017.
3 stars.

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