The widow of one of the 96 people who died in the Hillsborough disaster has told the jury at inquests examining the tragedy that her husband “was not a hooligan but a hard-working family man who just happened to love football”.
Kathleen Thompson had to stop several times to compose herself and wipe away tears as she read a statement about her husband, Patrick Thompson, who was one of the Liverpool fans who died at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium in April 1989.
Mrs Thompson told the 11 jurors: “Even now my children love their dad so much and it gets harder for them. They’re adults now and all they want is justice for their dad.
“Please listen to the evidence and let my children know that their dad was not a hooligan but a hard-working family man who happened to love football.”
Her emotional statement was one of the first “pen portraits” of the 96 people who died to be read at the hearing in Cheshire.
The coroner, Lord Justice Goldring, has ruled that these biographies should form the first section of evidence at the inquests, which could last up to a year.
As family member after family member came to the witness box to recount their memories of their loved ones, a number of the 250 people in the purpose-built courtroom were in tears.
Mrs Thompson was supported in the witness box by two of her five children as she remembered the British Rail guard who was 35 when he died at the ground.
The first statement to be read out yesterday was from Susan Horrocks, wife of Arthur Horrocks, 41.
Mrs Horrocks said in the statement: “This has been the hardest thing I have ever had to write. But I hope it goes some way towards saying what a wonderful husband and best friend he was to me as well as a devoted much-loved dad, brother, uncle and friend and how much we all miss him every day.”
Father-of-two Mr Horrocks was an insurance agent who lived for his family, she said.
Wilf Whelan also told the jury his son Ian, who was 19 when he died at the stadium, was not a hooligan.
He said: “He even attended Mass of his own free will every Sunday without fail.”
And he explained how, on the day of the 1989 semi-final, he left two red roses at his girlfriend’s door on his way to the match.
Walter Smith, in a statement read by a lawyer, remembered his sister Paula Ann Smith, who was 26 when she died.
He said: “I miss my baby sister. We shared so many happy memories.”