Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hillsborough Mum Anne Williams – The woman who refused to give up

Emdad Rahman: It was business as usual as a severely Cancer stricken Anne Williams defied her Doctors strict orders and attended the 24th Hillsborough memorial this week at Anfield.

Sheila Coleman, of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, referred to Anne’s courage at the  memorial: "We applaud Anne's tenacity to draw on whatever reserves she has left to be here today - she is quite simply an inspiration."

It was an act so typical of a mum who simply refused to accept defeat and a mere three days later we hear the sad news that she succumbed to her ill health, passing away at the home of her Brother Danny and sister in law Sandra in Birkdale.

Readers will be aware that Anne was the mother of 15 year old Kevin Williams, who on April 15th 1989 became one of the 96 football fans who died during the worst stadium disaster in British history. Kevin joined thousands of fellow Reds to what they hoped would be a memorable FA Cup semi final win against the late great Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest.  

Like thousands of fellow Reds fans, Kevin bid goodbye to his beloved Mother as he left to travel to Sheffield for the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest 24 years ago. Like 95 others, the teenager did not come back home.

Anne, who was originally Chair of the “Hillsborough Justice Campaign” and thereafter set up the independent “Hope for Hillsborough,” campaigned indomitably to make public the events and practices surrounding Kevin’s death at Hillsborough that black day. She told me a couple of years ago: “Kevin was a happy, 15 year old boy who did what many children his age do. He went to a football game to watch his heroes. Kevin though never returned home.”

For many years I have stood and watched in awe as her conviction and single minded struggle for the truth led her to question so called official reports, the lack of investigations taking place into despicable Police failings, and the circumstances which led to the tragic events of that fateful day. Her steely determination to fight powerful odds in order to lay bare the truth surrounding the circumstances of Kevin’s death were the core components in her quest to push on and on against the might of thundering typhoons and dark and enveloping gale force winds. It has taken 24 long years for these powerful forces to be lulled and almost beaten totally into submission.  Anne’s indefatigable efforts to prove that Kevin was still alive after the 3.15pm cut off imposed by the coroner at the controversial inquest into the deaths of the Liverpool fans at Hillsborough were completely justified by the verdicts of the Hillsborough Independent Panel in 2012.

The hearing inquests that originally took place in 1991 declared that the deceased fans had not survived past 3:15 pm. Anne did not accept the findings and embarked on a shadowy journey that slowly unravelled the dark and dirty secrets that festered at the heart of this human disaster. She met witnesses who attested to Kevin being alive, living and breathing 45 minutes after the Coroner’s cut off time at 4pm.

The witnesses reported Kevin remained conscious for as long as 45 minutes after the suggested cut-off time and called for his mother, facts which instigated a tireless campaign by Anne for the truth.

Three separate appeals for a new inquest to the Attorney General were rejected and The European Court of Human Rights also refused the case in 2009.

In 2012 at the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool, the Hillsborough Independent Panel made a breakthrough and their report laid bare the truth of what happened on 15th April 1989. A month and a half after this momentous occasion Anne Williams was diagnosed with Cancer. Her health prompted calls for Kevin's inquest to be brought forward. This was backed by overwhelming public support but was not successful.

The High Court quashed all 96 inquest verdicts and the Government has assured that new hearings will be held

Classy, intelligent, resilient and very resolute, Anne Williams had the ability to spread a smile across the faces of all who had the good fortune of meeting her. I instantly clicked and fondly referred to her as the “Hillsborough Mum.”

Liverpool Football Club issued a Twitter tribute: “Liverpool Football Club was this morning saddened to hear of the death of prominent Hillsborough campaigner Anne Williams. RIP Anne.”

City rivals Everton also provided a mark of respect: “The thoughts of everyone at Everton are with the family of Anne Williams, who sadly passed away this morning. RIP Anne #jft96.”

Anne Williams was in inspiration. She was kind, friendly and had the same approach to with everybody. From my interaction with her I can honestly say that she had the ability to instantly kindle the feeling of warmth and liking towards her. She remains an inspiration and I hope her struggle and legacy will continue to educate us and future generations for years to come.

It is sad that 24 years have elapsed and the serving of justice is within grasp. Yet those who have campaigned long and hard are beginning to depart this life. Anne Williams gave up everything to see justice prevail. It is now down to the rest to finish off her quest for justice.

Here’s the interview I did with Anne about her battle to see justice for Kevin and the 96 who perished at Hillsborough.

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