The inquests, within days of the disaster, were opened and then adjourned, this allowed the coroner to release the bodies of our loved ones for their funerals. A year later the inquests were opened, the coroner decided to split the inquest into two, we would have a mini inquest and then a main inquest later on. Usually an inquest does not start untill the DPP decides whether there will be prosecutions against any guilty party, the coroner wanted the mini inquest to go ahead to save the families less distress.
Kevin’s mini inquest was on the 2nd May 1990 and held at the Medical Legal Centre where we identified his body. We were still very ill, we thought we were going to get Kevin’s death rubber stamped, not knowing that this was going to be the start of a 22 year fight for JUSTICE.
When Steve and I arrived at the Medical Legal Centre with our social worker, we were met by Doug Fraser the solicitor for the families and Sgt Killoch the West Midland police officer assigned to Kevin’s case. We were taken into a side room, it was there I was shown a photograph of Kevin being resuscitated on the pitch. I started to cry – I did not expect this. They asked me if it was Kevin and I answered yes. Then somebody, I don’t know who, sat on the end of the desk, took hold of my hand and told me that they had something to tell me which would upset me; I was told that when Kevin was taken into the gym by Special WPC Debra Martin that she had said in her statement that Kevin died in her arms and had murmured the word “MUM”. I was screaming “where is she?”. I was told that she was not there that day but when we got into the court the pathologists would explain Kevin’s injuries to us and we will realise then that it was probably body wind the police lady had heard. They added that they were not going to tell me about this but thought it was best they did.
I was a broken women, I was in bits… I remember looking at the Coroner and seeing the jury, I could not stop the tears running down my face. I felt embarrassed, I just stood and cried, the sheer cruelty of them telling me this just before we went into the inquest never gave me time to take it in. The timing was recorded to be 4.00pm when Kevin was in the police lady’s arms and I had gone through “mothers instinct” that day. I had an overwhelming feeling that Kevin was not going to come home. I remember thinking you did die then Kevin…I felt you die
The Coroner opened Kevin’s mini inquest, just to hear his name made me cry even more. There was a map of the ground pinned on the wall and Det Layton of the West Midland Police was in charge of the visual evidence of where Kevin was laid when he was pulled out. He would point to this map as they spoke but I could not see it. The Pathologist, Dr Slater was called to give evidence about his findings at Kevin’s autopsy.
He spoke about Kevin as being the most severe case of Traumatic Asphyxia that he had dealt with, in fact it was a very severe case and he did not think that unconsciousness would have been more than three or five seconds, and that the evidence would indicate there had been extensive brain damage and Kevin really could not have communicated. This opinion was formed by the extensive blueness of the face, in addition there were small haemorrhages in both the face and internal organs including the brain, heart and lungs.
Sgt Killoch, the West Midland Police Officer assigned to Kevin’s case read out Kevin’s movements; “Following the severe crushing in the west stand terracing PC Michael Craighill went into enclosure 3 and assisted to carry a youth, he now believes to be Kevin, from the gate in the perimeter fence and on to the pitch, the officer attempted resuscitation without success.
Derek William Bruder, an off-duty PC from the Merseyside police who was a spectator at the match, recalls seeing a person lying on the pitch near the Spion Kop/North Stand of the ground. The person was having convulsions. Mr Bruder went on to the pitch and gave mouth to mouth resuscitation aided by a St Johns Ambulanceman. Resuscitation was continued and they were joined by a St Johns Ambulancewomen who took over from Mr Bruder. After a short time she said the casualty was dead, Mr Bruder left the scene. We have already mentioned the evidence of SWPC Martin who said about the lad speaking. In no way do I want to run poor SWPC Martin down because she had a very hard day it is right she was obviously- from her statements -very distressed? I also would not want to criticise WPC Martin in any way but I have interviewed her twice Sir and she was particularly upset, as indeed many people were, but it effected her particularly badly the events of the day.”
Dr Slater was called back and the Coroner says that Mr. Bruder was at the Spion Kop end of the ground and he says, “I saw this man lying on the floor having convulsions“. can you help us about that? It is obviously very distressing, unfortunately when people have not got enough oxygen in the brain, as I said earlier evidence, which is really what the word “Asphyxia” means. Individuals can in fact have fits. This is one of the mechanisms that leads towards death and makes Asphyxia worse. I have to accept that some individuals do have convulsions and it is one of the mechanisms leading to death in Traumatic Asphyxia sir. For somebody to have convulsions, this would imply that the asphyxia is such that there must be virtually irreversible brain damage present and again this would support the concept that the evidence of opening eyes and speaking is not conceivable. Sir.”
This is some of the evidence from Kevin’s mini inquest, I left the court room to go to the toilet to scream my head off. I had tried to keep composed all the way through the inquest. I could not believe what I was hearing, the social worker came looking for me and took me into a room where Steve was and they gave me a cup of tea. I asked Sgt Killoch “What time did my son die”? he said he did not know. I put the tea down and asked Steve to take me home, I cried all the way home, I could not take in what they were telling me, I felt as if I had just come home from Sheffield 13 months earlier after identifying Kevin.
The next day was the 3rd May 1990, I was trying to get my head round things that had been said at Kevin’s inquest, I kept thinking Kevin was not blue and he did not have markings on him, I saw him, I said goodbye to him, Kevin just looked as though he was asleep. I remember picking him up in my arms and holding him in the chapel of rest and how cold he was. I was thinking about the overwhelming feeling I had at 4.00pm that Kevin was not going to come home.
I stayed in the garden out of Steve’s way because I could not stop crying, it was about 4.00pm when the phone rang, it was Inspector Sawyers from the West Midland police asking if he could come round to talk to us about Kevin. When he arrived he was all suited up and carrying a brief case, he sat down and told us he had spent most of the day with PC Bruder, the off duty police officer from Merseyside who had seen Kevin convulsing on the pitch after 3.30pm. Inspector Sawyers told us that PC Bruder had now changed his mind and he thinks it was more of a twitch than a convulsion. We looked at him as if he was a mad man… coming all this way to tell us that? As he was leaving he told us Kevin was having another inquest the next day 4th May, I just broke, I could not go all the way back to Sheffield. He told us there was no need for us to attend as it was mainly medical evidence that was going to be heard. Before he left I asked him about Special WPC Martin and Kevin calling my name before he died, he told me he had interviewed her, he said she had not been in the police force very long, “she was off her head, it was body wind that she heard.”
The inquest came and went, we were trying to come to terms with Kevin’s death, it was hard, we had Michael and Sara to look after and we were not well ourselves. Steve started to have bad panic attacks, so bad he looked like he was having a heart attack. I had to ring an ambulance every time this happened to take him to be checked out, every time it turned out to be stress but the doctor said one day it might be a heart attack so just ring the paramedics when it happens. I was believing Kevin called my name and he died at 4.00pm calling for his mum.
After the mini inquests the DPP decided there was not enough evidence to prosecute, we were informed that the main inquest was to start in September 1990. Steve was ill in bed and told me to ring our solicitor to find out what we do, Mr Farley told me that there was no need for us to get involved, he said that the families wanted a verdict of manslaughter and they were not going to get it. We took his advice, we were ill and I did not understand what was going on.
The coroner reopened the inquest and imposed the 3.15pm cut off time, this being the time the first ambulance arrived on the ground. He used the ambulance as a “marker”, the reason for the 3.15pm cut off time he said was that the people had already received their injuries from which they were to die, Traumatic Asphyxia is very quick and you don’t feel a thing. After a 90 day hearing we received a verdict of Accidental Death, all dead or brain-dead by 3.15pm. It did not matter what time any emergency services arrived, these poor people were beyond help. I could not get my head around this… after attending Kevin’s mini inquest I was believing Kevin was alive till 4.00pm .
I went to see our solicitor to get things explained to me, he told me Kevin was worth £3,500 so to class his death as an accident, this amount would have been paid out to us if Kevin had been run over. “What about the police lady?” I asked him, he did not know Kevin had two mini inquests on him as I asked him to send for the transcripts of Kevin’s mini inquest on the 4th may 1990 the inquest I had not attended.
When I received the transcripts of Kevin’s mini inquest on the 4th May 1990 I was horrified at what was said. The Coroner opened by saying to the jury; After Kevin’s inquest was concluded on the 3rd of May my attention was drawn by some of my legal colleagues, and very rightly because they realised it was a sensitive problem and did not want to upset the family, so they brought it to my attention privately. The point they were bringing to my attention was that one of the witnesses appeared to say (PC Bruder) that when he came to this young man at the Spion Kop end of the ground, he had convulsions and he also said he could feel a pulse. ( The pulse was not mentioned in Kevin’s mini inquest on the 2nd May) We are going to repeat all the relevant evidence in a moment, we knew that Kevin was being taken across the pitch and we had a timing of 15:32. Assuming that was right, this convulsion or whatever it was, was happening after that point of time. The question was what an earth was going on.
It says in the British medical Journal that nine young men who were taken to hospital were either convulsing on the way or had a convulsion when they arrived at hospital, all of these young men come out of it with no side effects.
I agreed this was a valid point. I think we were so concerned about the event which happened after that, namely, what happened in the gymnasium, did he speak or did he not speak, this was the lad with the fractured voice box, that we may not have put in enough concentration and thought into the earlier evidence, but we are ging to do it now, we are going to sort it out so that we know, as far as we are able, if we can, what happened.
Sgt Killoch was called to read out the summary again, a SWPC Debra Martin went on to the pitch to assist and helped to carry several deceased and many injured to the gymnasium. She assisted to carry one young boy, now known to be Kevin, into the gym and remained with him. Now what she said we are not going to deal with because that was already SATISFACTORILY EXPLAINED. We are interested in what PC Bruder says. He was lying on the ground or thereabouts. “I saw this man lying on the floor having convulsions.” That is his exact wording, “and then went to the man who was having convulsions” Then he says “I was joined by a St John’s Ambulanceman.” “That chap said, “You do mouth to mouth and I will do heart massage.” he goes on to say “I then took a pulse in the neck. I could feel a slight pulse.” He talks about the man being sick, then eventually a St. John’s Ambulancewomen came and he left the man.
Inspector Sawyers was called to give evidence about his meeting with PC. Bruder the day before 3rd May 1990. He says that PC. Bruder, after careful consideration, says that he saw Kevin’s head move and that the word he best thinks describes this movement is that of a twitch.