The families of 96 Liverpool soccer fans who were crushed to death at a crowded stadium in 1989 declared they had finally won justice Tuesday after a jury found that police and emergency services were to blame for Britain's worst sports disaster. The jury exonerated the behavior of the crowd, saying it did not contribute to the tragedy at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England, and that the victims were "unlawfully killed." Relatives who had waged a tireless campaign to protect the reputation of their loved ones leapt to their feet outside a specially built courtroom, cheering and weeping, when the verdicts were announced. They chanted, "Justice for the 96!" and sang the Liverpool soccer club's anthem, "You'll Never Walk Alone."
The Hillsborough tragedy unfolded on April 15, 1989, when more than 2,000 Liverpool fans were allowed to flood into a standing-room section. After the tragedy, a false narrative that blamed drunken, ticketless, and rowdy Liverpool fans was created by police and spread by a local lawmaker. David Duckenfield, the police chief superintendent in charge of policing the game, testified at the inquests that he told a "terrible lie" by saying fans had rushed through gates into the stadium, rather than admitting to authorizing the gates to be opened. "The disgrace is that we've been faced by police slander upon slander, insult upon insult," says Hillsborough campaigner Trevor Hicks, who lost two daughters in the crush. "Now, truth has won out." Police plan to conclude a separate criminal investigation into wrongdoing by authorities in the disaster. (Read more Hillsborough disaster stories.)