Liverpool

Hillsborough: Final Anfield memorial service held

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Media captionDoves were released in memory of the fans who died

The final Anfield memorial service for the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster has been held in Liverpool.

The annual event had been staged at Liverpool's stadium since the tragedy in Sheffield on 15 April 1989.

In January, relatives of the victims said they had "unanimously agreed" this year's service would be the last.

A minute's silence was held across Liverpool at 15:06 BST - the time when the FA Cup semi-final was abandoned following a terrace crush.

Look back at live coverage of the memorial service

Image copyright Peter Byrne/PA
Image caption Trevor Hicks and Margaret Aspinall both spoke at the service
Image copyright Peter Byrne/PA
Image caption The Hillsborough Family Support Group released 96 white doves at the conclusion of the service
Image copyright Peter Byrne/PA
Image caption Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and his players received a loud cheer as they took their seats

'Milestone'

The service opened with the names of each of the 96 who died in Britain's worst sporting disaster read out between periods of singing of the hymn Abide With Me.

Reverend Kelvin Bolton said the 27th anniversary was "yet another milestone in your long journey" and repeated that bereaved families and their supporters "will never walk alone", which the crowd applauded.

Mr Bolton said he did not need to sing You'll Never Walk Alone because it was still echoing around Anfield from last night's match.

Fans in the Kop stand gave Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and his players a rousing reception as they took their place for the service.

England manager Roy Hodgson was among the guests along with many of the Liverpool team from 1989, including Ian Rush, Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson.

Former Everton striker Graeme Sharp gave the first reading, Psalm 23 of the Bible, The Lord Is My Shepherd.

Kenny Dalglish, who was manager of the Liverpool team on the day of the disaster, then received a standing ovation as he gave a reading from the Gospel of John.

Image caption The crowd went silent for a minute at 15:06 during the service
Image copyright Peter Byrne/PA
Image caption Kenny Dalglish read from The Gospel of John "Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled"
Image copyright Peter Byrne/PA
Image caption The Band of Life sculpture was lit during the last memorial service to be held at Anfield

There was more rapturous applause for Hillsborough expert and author Phil Scraton, who read out a poem he had written for the service.

When he finished, he became visibly emotional and embraced some of the Hillsborough families.

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson recalled to the crowds how he had queued for hours to lay a scarf and flowers at Anfield in the aftermath of the disaster 27 years ago.

He said that although this would be the last memorial service at Anfield, "it will not the last time Liverpool will remember".

He ended his address by asking the crowd to applaud "for exactly 96 seconds" to thank the families for all they had done for the city of Liverpool in the years since they lost their loved ones.

'United in grief'

Trevor Hicks, whose two daughters died at Hillsborough, said the way Liverpool Football Club looked after the bereaved families in the weeks after the disaster "was unbelievable".

He said during the match last night "Anfield was a cauldron, today it's a church".

He was also cheered as he made reference to "another great city" and said he had always respected the tragedy of the 1958 Munich air disaster which killed Manchester United players.

"It's been fantastic when we've reached across Stanley Park [to Liverpool's neighbouring club Everton] for support and everyone will have the image in mind of the little girl and boy in red and blue kits with 96 on the back.

"I would like to reach out along the M62 to another great north-west city", he said, adding that supporters, while "rivals on the pitch, should be united in grief".

Margaret Aspinall, whose son James died in the 1989 disaster, was the last to address the memorial. said "our last service at Anfield" was an "emotional" occasion.

Mrs Aspinall, who chairs the Hillsborough Family Support Group, was the last to address the memorial.

She invited everyone to stand and join in singing Wind Beneath My Wings as 96 white doves were released in memory of those fans who died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster.

The service then closed with a rendition of Liverpool Football Club's anthem You'll Never Walk Alone.

Flags at civic buildings across the city were flown at half-mast and during the minute's silence public transport was brought to a halt.

Arriva buses marked the anniversary on all buses across Merseyside with a display which reads "Remembering the 96".

At the conclusion of the silence, the bells of Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral were tolled 96 times.

Image copyright Peter Byrne/PA
Image caption A girl and boy in Liverpool and Everton kits with 96 on the back placed flowers at the side of the pitch
Image caption All Arriva buses across Merseyside displayed the sign "Remembering the 96".
Image caption Flags across the city, including this one at Anfield, flew at half-mast

Earlier this month, the jury at new inquests into the disaster retired to start considering its conclusions about how the fans died.

The hearings, which started in March 2014, are already the longest running inquests in British legal history.

Image caption The match at Sheffield Wednesday's ground was called off at 15:06 on 15 April 1989

Who were the 96 victims?

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Read profiles of all those who died in the disaster


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