New inquests into Hillsborough stadium deaths

Monday 31 March 2014 20.29
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Britain's worst sporting disaster happened in April 1989, when 96 people died at Sheffield's Hillsborough stadium
Britain's worst sporting disaster happened in April 1989, when 96 people died at Sheffield's Hillsborough stadium
Warrington was chosen as the venue for the new inquests
Warrington was chosen as the venue for the new inquests

Jury selection has begun in the fresh inquests into the deaths of the 96 football fans who were killed in the Hillsborough disaster.

Potential jurors were brought into the modern courtroom on the outskirts of Warrington in Cheshire and warned that the long-awaited hearing may take up to a year.

The room was packed with the families of those who died, journalists and a raft of lawyers.

Proceedings were also shown in an annex in the building, as well as in a private room for relatives in Liverpool.

Earlier, emotional relatives said the much-fought-for hearing had been "a long time coming" as they arrived for the start of the inquest.

Vice-chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group Jenni Hicks said there had been "lots of tears" in the past few days, but she was ready for the hearing to begin.

She said: "It's been a long time coming. I've had an emotional weekend."

A pool of 150 potential jurors had already filled in questionnaires to assess their suitability to hear the inquest.

Today they were also asked whether they supported Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest or Liverpool.

Laughter broke out as one of the possible jurors declared that they were an Everton fan.

Coroner Lord Justice Goldring said: "Each of you has filled out a questionnaire which I have. I shall only ask questions arising from it where that is appropriate.

"I want to add two things. First the case may well take 12 months, in other words longer than the nine months which was foreshadowed on the questionnaire.

"Second if your name is called and you are a supporter of Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest or Liverpool I shall ask you to indicate."

Most of the day is expected to be taken up with jury selection for the hearing, with a jury of 11 plus ten reserves being chosen.

There will then be opening statements from the coroner and the families later in the week, with background "pen portraits" of all the victims being presented to the court over the next month.

Britain's worst sporting disaster happened on 15 April 1989 during Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest, as thousands of fans were crushed on the ground's Leppings Lane terrace.

Some died on the pitch as fellow fans and some police officers desperately tried to revive them, while other fans made makeshift stretchers out of advertising hoardings.

Verdicts of accidental death from the original Hillsborough inquest in March 1991 were quashed in December 2012.

It followed the final report from the Hillsborough Independent Panel earlier that year.

The potential jurors were told that they must not research the Hillsborough disaster or speak to anyone about the case.

Lord Justice Goldring said: "It is absolutely fundamental that you must put out of your minds anything you may have heard or read about Hillsborough. Do not do any research into Hillsborough, whether on the internet or in any other way.

"Do not discuss the case with anyone. Do not say anything about the case on Facebook or Twitter or any such site."

A jury is expected to be sworn in tomorrow.