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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Cumbria health chief’s tributes to Hillsborough families

A public health chief who witnessed the Hillsborough tragedy which claimed the lives of 96 football fans has paid tribute to the families after they won a key victory in their 23-year fight for justice.

 Prof John Ashton photo
Prof John Ashton

The High Court this week quashed accidental death verdicts which were recorded after the original 1991 inquest.

The decision clears the way for a fresh investigation and a new inquest which will examine the role played in the tragedy by the police, other emergency workers, the local council and Sheffield Wednesday Football Club.

Professor John Ashton, Cumbria’s director of public health, was at the ground with his teenage sons and a nephew when the tragedy unfolded.

A doctor working in public health, he helped prioritise treatment for the injured and certified the death of six victims.

Speaking this week, he spoke of the courage of the bereaved families, suggesting that Liverpool should one day honour them by making them “freemen” of the city.

“The families of those who died at Hillsborough have taught us all a lesson about the strength which can still be found in communities in some parts of the country,” said Professor Ashton.

“I had two sons and a nephew with me that day, and they broke away from me at the turnstiles, and could easily have swept away down that tunnel. You think, there but for the grace of God.

“The families of those who died have taught us all humility: the strength they have shown has been remarkable, particularly given the vilification that came afterwards.

“They should be made freemen of the City of Liverpool.

“Those who were at the match knew the truth.

“They’ve been motivated by a determination to make sure that truth comes out.”

In September, shocking details emerged of how South Yorkshire police made “strenuous efforts” to shift the blame for Hillsborough on to the fans.

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