In the first part of Paddy Shennan’s serialisation of the Anne Williams story, With Hope In Her Heart, the Hillsborough campaigner’s daughter, Sara, recalls the day her family’s world fell apart – Sara was nine at the time and her brother, Kevin, 15
Kevin had a right cob on when he was told he couldn’t go to Hillsborough for that FA Cup semi-final in 1989.
I remember him talking with his mate, Andy Duncan, a few days beforehand as he was trying to get someone to get him a ticket. It was all very last minute. I was earwigging as usual and he said “Don’t tell me Dad”.
As soon as he came downstairs on the Friday night, I knew he was going to ask if he could go to the match.
His face fell when Dad said no. He tried to make out he wasn’t that upset, but I could tell that he was. He went back upstairs and slammed the door.
Mum and Dad looked at each other because he’d hardly left the kitchen table, apart from to go to school and his little job clearing glasses in the Bay Horse pub in Formby, and they knew how hard he was working and how much he loved Liverpool.
So Dad shouted him back down and said he could go as long as he went with the police escort. He was straight on the phone to Andy – he had obviously already got the ticket. I always wonder where that ticket would have gone if Kev hadn’t gone to Sheffield in the end.
I was made up for him. He was so excited that the first away game he was going to with his mates would be such a big match. I couldn’t wait to hear about it from him when he got home. Kev woke up really early to make sure he didn’t miss the train, so I got up as well to help him get ready. I waved him off at the window and he gave me a cheeky little V-sign as he went off to see Mum in the newsagents where she was working to get bags of crisps for the journey to Sheffield.
That was the last time I ever saw him.
Mum had friends who had been travelling in Australia and they were due to be coming around for dinner that night so she was busy cooking, cleaning and washing her hair. I was that bored I ended up picking all the daisies off our front lawn, every single one of them, and put them upstairs in a bag to show Kev when he got home.
Then I just remember it all unfolding on the television. Mum, with her hair still wet because her dryer wasn’t working, sitting in front of it on Grandstand with me and my dad and none of us really understanding what was going on.
It wasn’t that unusual to see a pitch invasion during the ’80s and that’s what we thought it was at first. I used to think they were quite exciting.
We were sitting there watching it and I remember my Dad saying “If I see our Kevin on that pitch, it’ll be the last match he ever goes to anywhere, never mind another away one.”
But then they started to say there were people dead.
Seven was the first number they came up with. Then it was 21.
Mum went upstairs to get dressed as she was going to nip down to the Legion to get ciggies and see if anyone down there knew anything. I told her how many dead the telly was now saying and she lost her rag with me a little bit. “Our Kevin’s there, Sara,” she shouted. It was a very stressful time. She must have been in a state of pure panic by this point.
And, by the time she’d got from where the house was to the top of the road, the number of deaths had gone up to 56. By the time she got to the Legion, it was 73. She came back not long after, if anything in a worse state.
I knew she was trying to be brave in front of me, but it was written all over her face how worried she was. Mum’s friends, Bill and Ian, came over for dinner as planned. They didn’t have a clue what was going on. Nobody felt like eating, but they just sat around drinking and talking. And waiting. I was just hovering around by this point. I didn’t really understand what was happening, but I knew it wasn’t good.
They were just sat trying to get through on the helplines all night, feeling helpless. Mum ended up ringing the local police station and they gave her the numbers of the Sheffield hospitals. She rang them all but couldn’t get any information about Kev.
Andy Duncan’s dad rang to say that he was about to go and pick him up from Southport Infirmary as those with milder injuries had been sent to local hospitals to get treated there. He told us Andy had said that he got separated from Kevin on the terrace in one of the big surges of people. He had tried to go back and find him when he got out, but the police led him away.
Now we knew Kev had been in the middle of it. It was the early hours of Sunday morning by this stage and Mum rang the helplines again.
This time she got through to someone who said the police would be with us shortly. That could only mean one thing, although I was too young to realise it at the time. Nothing happened for ages. The phone didn’t ring so Mum and Dad decided they had to go to Sheffield to see what was happening. Dad’s sister Penny, who had taken us to Anfield the one time Kev and I had been to the match together, raced round to drive them while my grandma came over to look after me.
I remember just hanging about with my mates the next day wondering what was going on. When you’re a kid, you don’t realise. I saw Andy, Kevin’s friend who he’d been at the match with and who was back home by that stage, at the top of the road. He came over and asked me if Kev was back yet. I told him that my parents had gone off to Sheffield to look for him.
It was late afternoon that I finally found out. Auntie Penny phoned to tell my grandma. I was outside by the front gate. She was all right, my grandma, but she couldn’t really handle situations like that very well. She came out of the house and said simply “I’m sorry Sara, Kevin’s died.” I just ran off.
I was back by the time Mum and Dad got home. Lots of the family had come around, Mum’s Mum and Dad, my uncle Danny and Auntie Pauline. There were lots of tears. I’d never seen so many grown-ups crying. No one could believe it. It was like a nightmare that we weren’t able to wake up from.
I spent most of the next few days at my grans’ and uncles’ houses. I went with my uncle Chris to the funeral home to see Kevin when he arrived back on the Wednesday. He was buried on the Friday.
We were advised to have the funeral done as soon as possible. Nobody thought anything of it at the time, but as I got older, and saw friends and family sometimes have to wait two or even three weeks to bury their loved ones, it began to strike me as strange that Kevin’s was done so quickly.
It’s hard now not to feel that the authorities just wanted all the Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough in the ground as soon as possible.
You could say they wanted to bury the evidence.
TOMORROW: 2012 – a year of triumph and tragedy for Anne Williams With Hope In Her Heart, by Sara Williams with Dan Kay, is published this Thursday by Trinity Mirror Sport Media, price £9.99. Call 0845 143 0001 or go to merseyshop.comhttp://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/day-one-anne-williams-story-6250179