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Former Hillsborough chief shows sorry can be a powerful word

ColumnistsBy Caoimhe Young
David Duckenfield
David Duckenfield

THIS week a man who has been living in hell finally owned up to his lies and his massive part in the death of 96 people.

If I had been in his shoes, I’d have found it difficult to live with myself all these years. 
 
Former Hillsborough police chief David Duckenfield accepted that his failure to close a tunnel caused the Hillsborough football disaster. Duckenfield (70), said that he “froze” during the 1989 football disaster before he ordered the opening of a gate to relieve congestion outside the now infamous Leppings Lane turnstile. 
 
He agreed that his actions − or non-actions − were the “direct cause” of the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans when people flooded into the already packed terrace pens. 
 
Duckenfield (right) said none of the four officers in the police control room at Hillsborough advised him there would be problems getting fans in by the 3pm kick-off. But he agreed he was the boss. Some comfort to him I am sure.
 
The new inquests are taking place at Birchwood Park in Warrington and are being heard by Court of Appeal judge Lord Justice Goldring. The original verdict of accidental death was quashed in December 2012 following years of campaigning by families, survivors and supporters, and the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s report.
 
Opening old wounds with tribunals and hearings can sometimes seem like such a waste of taxpayers’ money. Tribunals here came and went without anything happening other than lawyers getting rich. But Hillsborough proves the value of never givng up on the search for truth, no matter the cost.
 
I have a little boy and if I had waved goodbye to him, never to see him again, I would have felt a great weight lifted this week. The anger would have died a little, even if the pain would remain.
 
The jury heard how the former police officer struggled to sleep in the run-up to the 1989 Taylor Inquiry into the disaster and at one stage was drinking half tumblers of whiskey to “find courage” to read statements.
 
You can be sure that many of those who lost someone in Hillsborough – who have been campaigning for 26 years for justice – have long given up on a full night’s sleep Mr Duckenfield.
 
At least this week they got your long overdue apology. Isn’t sorry such a powerful word?