Liverpool fan’s death ruled as 97th of Hillsborough disaster

·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A coroner has ruled that Andrew Devine, 55, who has died 32 years after suffering severe and irreversible brain damage at Hillsborough in 1989, was unlawfully killed, and that therefore he is legally the 97th victim of the disaster.

In a statement on Liverpool football club’s website announcing the news, Devine’s family, who have cared for him ever since he suffered the devastating crushing injuries at Hillsborough, said they welcomed the coroner’s ruling.

Andrew Devine
Liverpool FC paid tribute to Andrew Devine in a statement on its website. Photograph: family handout/PA

“It is with great sadness and a sense of immense loss that we can confirm that Andrew Devine passed away yesterday at the premature age of 55,” their statement said.

“Our collective devastation is overwhelming but so too is the realisation that we were blessed to have had Andrew with us for 32 years since the Hillsborough tragedy.

“We welcome the conclusion of the coroner, Mr André Rebello, made today at Liverpool coroner’s court, that Andrew was unlawfully killed, making him the 97th fatality of the tragic events that occurred on 15 April 1989.

“In the intervening years, Andrew has been a much-loved son, brother and uncle. He has been supported by his family and a team of dedicated carers, all of whom devoted themselves to him.

“As ever, our thoughts are with all of those affected by Hillsborough. We would ask that our privacy is respected at this sad time.”

Ninety-five men, women and children died immediately or very shortly after they were trapped in the crush in the central “pens” of the Leppings Lane terrace at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground on 15 April 1989.

Tony Bland, who suffered irreparable brain damage in the crush, died in 1993 after a court granted permission for his life support to be withdrawn. Families of the 96 had to fight for 27 years through the legal system against a false narrative relentlessly propounded by South Yorkshire police, who blamed the victims, the Liverpool supporters themselves, for the disaster. It took 23 years, to December 2012, for the high court to quash the original 1991 inquest verdict of accidental death.

Devine was 22 years old when he went to the game in 1989. His injuries were so severe that doctors initially told his family he would be unlikely to survive the day. He then spent six weeks in intensive care at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital and was transferred to other specialist hospitals around the UK before returning home to be looked after by his parents Stanley and Hilary, in the Liverpool suburb of Mossley Hill.

Though he could not communicate and needed 24-hour personal care, he became well known among the fans and the players of his beloved Liverpool football club. In 2019, his home was visited by Liverpool’s open top bus during the parade of the city when the team won the Champions League at the request of the vice-captain James Milner.

On 26 April 2016 after a new inquest lasting more than two years, the longest case ever heard in British legal history, the jury reached a verdict that the 96 were unlawfully killed due to the gross negligence of the police officer in command, Ch Supt David Duckenfield. The jury’s determination explicitly absolved the victims of any blame, concluding that no behaviour by Liverpool supporters played any part in causing the dangerous situation at the ground. In November 2019 Duckenfield was found not guilty of manslaughter in a retrial at Preston crown court that began on 7 October. A first trial on the same charge, heard by the same judge, Sir Peter Openshaw, ended on 3 April with the jury unable to reach a verdict.

The coroner’s ruling that Devine was unlawfully killed appears to have classed his death as having been caused by the same circumstances, police gross negligence, as the unlawful killing of the other 96 victims, who were aged between 10 and 67.

Devine died surrounded by his family, according to his niece, Georgia Mason, who was one of the hundreds of people paying tribute. “We are deeply saddened but blessed to have had these last 32 years with him. He remains so very loved,” she said.

In their own statement, Liverpool football club said they were “deeply saddened” by Devine’s passing.

“A lifelong Liverpool supporter, Andrew continued to attend matches at Anfield when possible despite suffering life-changing injuries at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989,” the club said. “In doing so he defied expectations that he would not survive for six months after the tragedy.”

The club said that the coroner’s ruling that Devine was unlawfully killed, and is formally the 97th victim of Hillsborough, provides “a further tragic reminder of the toll that Hillsborough continues to take on all affected by it. The thoughts of everyone at the club are with Andrew’s family and his carers.”

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