Tuesday 27 September 2016

Hillsborough disaster's '97th victim' killed himself after selling ticket to friend who died at match

Samuel Osborne

Published 01/05/2016 | 19:59

Jurors in the Hillsborough inquest have been told they can return a majority decision on the question of whether the 96 victims were unlawfully killed
Jurors in the Hillsborough inquest have been told they can return a majority decision on the question of whether the 96 victims were unlawfully killed

The father of the Hillsborough disaster's "97th victim" believes his son would still be alive today if the verdict of unlawful killing had been reached sooner.

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Frank Whittle, 78, told the Sunday Mirror: “If the truth had emerged while he was still alive I don’t think he would have killed himself."

His son, Stephen Whittle, killed himself 22 years after the fatal crush at the Sheffield Wednesday's football ground which killed 96 people.

“He felt guilty at having passed his ticket on," his father told the paper, "but he would have been glad for his friend that the fans had been exonerated."

Stephen Whittle is regarded as the 97th Hillsborough victim by a Liverpool FC online forum.

On the morning of the match, a last minute work commitment meant he had to sell his ticket to a friend.

His friend - who has never been named - was one of the 96 Liverpool supporters crushed to death in the Leppings Lane turnstiles.

Mr Whittle left the Hillsborough victims' families £61,000 in his will before he died on the railway track between Westhoughton and Atherton, aged 50, in 2011.

Last week, the 27-year battle for justice by the families of those killed were vindicated, when a jury found the 96 victims were unlawfully killed.

The jury also concluded Liverpool supporters played no part whatsoever in the causes of the disaster.

They found the crush had been caused by catastrophic institutional failings, concluding South Yorkshire Police errors caused a dangerous situation at the turnstiles, failures by commanding officers caused a crush and there were mistakes in the police control box over the order to open the Leppings Lane end exit gates.

Sheffield Wednesday FC were also found to be culpable, with the jury deciding defects at the club's stadium contributed to the disaster.

Now, Stephen Whittle's father is hoping class action lawsuits launched against police will lead to prosecutions over the disaster.

"The families deserve it," Frank Whittle told the paper, "and I would feel that Stephen is getting justice."

(© Independent News Service)

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