Hillsborough disaster: Bells rung to mark anniversary

The crowd at Anfield fell silent to mark the moment the match was halted

Bells have been rung 96 times across Merseyside to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

The bells of Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral, Liverpool Town Hall and churches in Merseyside rang at 15:06 BST during a one-minute silence.

It marked the moment Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final at the Sheffield ground was halted on 15 April 1989 after a crush that led to the deaths of 96 fans.

An annual memorial service was held at Anfield stadium.

Seats left empty

Campaigner Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, and other families of victims were clapped as they arrived for the service.

96 seats with scarves draped over them A seat was left empty and draped with a football scarf for each Liverpool fan who died

Fans, players and club officials also gathered in the ground. Ninety-six seats, which were draped in scarves, were left empty.

The service began with the singing of the hymn, Abide With Me, which is synonymous with the FA Cup and has been sung at every final since 1927. It was also recorded as part of a charity single in memory of the victims in 1989.

A ring of lights called the Band of Life, with each light inscribed with the name of a victim, was lit as the names of those who died were read out by the Reverend Kelvin Bolton, the Reverend David Smith and Father Stephen Maloney.

The Band of Life As each name was read out, a light was lit on the Band of Life sculpture

A minute's silence followed, which Rev Bolton ended with the words "a time never to forget".

Taking the first reading, Everton manager Roberto Martinez said he was was only 15 when the disaster happened and that "as a family, we couldn't believe the pain and horror".

He said he was there representing his club, adding that "Everton remembers - we always will".

The service was also screened at Everton's ground, Goodison Park, for fans to pay their respects.

Roberto Martinez, Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger, Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush and others Everton manager Roberto Martinez (top left) sat among Liverpool players past and present

Martinez was followed by Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, who said that while "you don't struggle for inspiration [at] this great football club, the single biggest source for me is when I arrive each match day and see the Hillsborough memorial".

Speaking to the families of the victims, Rodgers said they had "all stood for 25 years together [and] the love for the people you lost inspires me every day as manager".

"I really do feel inadequate in your company. You will never walk alone."

Standing ovations

Many aspects of today's service felt the same as the service did five years ago for the 20th anniversary.

The 96 names were recited then, as now. The Kop was full then, as it was today.

But in every other sense, today's service was different.

When Andy Burnham spoke in 2009, he was heckled by a lone cry of "Justice for the 96", which spread throughout the Kop.

This year when he spoke, it was to a very different reception - applause filled the stadium.

With new inquests under way, the justice process is ongoing.

This year's commemorations were tinged with a feeling of hope and optimism for the future.

Leigh MP Andy Burnham, who had been booed at a Hillsborough memorial service in 2009 while delivering a speech as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, thanked the families of the victims.

In a speech which saw several standing ovations for the people he mentioned, including campaigner Anne Williams who died shortly after the memorial service last April, he said he had asked his mother what he should speak about.

He said she "told me to wish you all the best for the league and to say how fitting it would be if you won it in this of all years".

He also praised former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish for his work with the families over the last 25 years, adding, "what leadership, what loyalty he has shown on your behalf".

Trevor Hicks, the president of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said the 25 years since the disaster had been "a very long road".

'Spirit of 96'

Mr Hicks, who lost two daughters at Hillsborough, thanked Liverpool Football Club for their support and the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

Trevor Hicks, father: "The families of the 96 - we did it... we made it all happen"

"The spirit of the 96 burns in our hearts and drives us on," he said.

He also paid tribute to the families of the victims, who he said had "made it all happen".

"We stood together. We pulled, we pushed, we refused to lie down, we refused to go away, which is something that annoyed an awful lot of people."

His words were echoed by Mrs Aspinall, whose son died at the Sheffield stadium.

She said the families had been "fighting for 25 years".

"No matter how much dirt they tried to throw at us, Liverpudlians, Scousers, we don't lie down and take it."

Their speeches were followed by a rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone, led by the singer Gerry Marsden, during which 96 balloons were released.

The service ended with the crowd singing You'll Never Walk Alone

In Sheffield, the city's cathedral held a two-minute silence at 15:07 BST.

At the Hillsborough ground, a short service and a wreath-laying ceremony also took place at the memorial garden and the stadium was opened to allow people to lay flowers and remember those who died at the match against Nottingham Forest.

A minute's silence was observed at Old Market Square in Nottingham for the victims.

Hillsborough memorial service A memorial service was held at the monument at Hillsborough

Scarves from every club in the top four divisions were laid on the pitch to create a number 96 at Anfield as a "sign of unity" for the service, a spokesman for Liverpool said.

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson said the city "will never forget those who died at Hillsborough, and this is a day for us to unite and remember each and every supporter and the friends and families left behind".

Who were the 96 victims?

Eight of the Hillsborough victims, CW from top left: Paul Clark, Stephen Copoc, Tracey Cox, Jon-Paul Gilhooley, Steven Fox, Vincent Fitzsimmons, Christopher Edwards

Tuesday's events follow a weekend of tributes to the 96 fans, which saw wreaths left at Anfield's and Hillsborough's memorials to those who died and football matches in leagues across England kick-off seven minutes late.

The commemorations come as fresh inquests into the deaths of the fans are held in Warrington. The inquests have been adjourned until 22 April.

They were ordered after the original accidental death inquest verdicts were quashed in 2012 following an independent report.

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