Formby father who lost his son at Hillsborough attends Parliamen

Bill Esterson and Barry Devonside


A Formby father who was at Hillsborough when his son died in the tragedy is travelling to Parliament next week to speak to MPs and listen to the debate which has been called after more than 138,000 people signed an e-petition.

Barry Devonside and wife Jackie are attending the debate as guests of Bill Esterson MP who was one of 96 MPs who put their names forward calling for the release of the original Cabinet papers relating to Hillsborough from the time of the tragedy.

Despite calls from Labour MPs to release the documentation, there was a move to try and suppress the papers by the government.

But an online petition on 10 Downing Street's own website calling for the documents to be released saw more than 138,000 people sign up demanding full disclosure.

The whole saga surrounding the release of the documents is now going to be discussed in Parliament next Monday.

Barry and Jackie will be attending.

The couple lost son Christopher at Hillsborough. He was just 18 when he died.

Barry said: "From day one of the tragedy, the families have been kept in the dark about everything that went on.

"The misinformation which appeared in the press and in the media all made it very difficult to find out exactly the sequence of events. I believe that was all an intentional smokescreen so that the British public couldn't see for themselves the true causes of the tragedy.

"And in doing so they besmirched the memories of those who died and the whole city of Liverpool."

Christopher had been a pupil at Range High and had ambitions to be a journalist. The 1989 Liverpool v Nottingham Forest game was the first time he had been in the stands.

Barry had also been at the game but was in a different part of the ground.

He said: "I remember before the game Christopher came to me to ask if he could go with his mates to the game and stand in the Leppings Lane end.

"I wasn't keen because a couple of years earlier I had been in that part of the ground and saw for myself that it wasn't safe. But he kept asking and he just caught me in a moment of weakness and I said ok. He was 18 after all.

"So we both attended the game separately. After we saw just how serious it was and that people were being seriously hurt and even killed I just went everywhere to try to find him, including the make shift morgues which had been set up. The first one I went to I gave the officer on the door a description of Christopher including his name and address and that I was father as well as details of what he was wearing, which was a Wales rugby top. All these details had been given to the police by his friends when Christopher had been taken in. But the officer came back and told me he wasn't there.

"After I had exhausted all of the other places where the dead had been taken I went back to the first one and was told that Christopher had been in there all along. It was devastating. I was absolutely devastated. I couldn't even remember my own phone number, but I managed to get through to my brother in law and told him to tell Jackie.

"I then had a long journey back home without Christopher. It really was the worst day of my life.

"But as I came through the door, Jackie was there waiting for me and she just hugged me."

Barry is now hopeful that with the release of the documents and next week's debate, the truth will finally start to come out.

He said: "Lessons were learned after Hillsborough and the Taylor Report made many recommendations to improve safety at football matches. And although the report exonerated the fans of any blame, some of the shocking misinformation which was spread at the time still lingers.

"We hope now that we'll finally see full disclosure of all the facts and we'll finally get to the truth.

"We still need to hear answers for lots of questions. Why were there queues of ambulances waiting to come onto the pitch but only one was allowed on? Why had the gates been opened? What was there misinformation being spread by the authorities from the very start?

"We just want to know the full facts so that we can get justice for the 96 who died and the many other who are still living with what happened that day.

"I'd like to thank our MP Bill Esterson for adding his name to the campaign and his colleagues including Andy Burnham who worked so that we can get to the stage where the issue is debated formally and we can all finally get to the truth."

Bill Esterson said it was high time the families received the answers they have been waiting for.

Bill said: "This will be the first time the House of Commons has held a full-scale debate on the Hillsborough tragedy.

"We'll get the chance to formally vote on whether the cabinet minutes and documents should be released publicly, which of course they should be. My Labour colleagues and I are demanding that the documents are released in full.

"It has taken 22 years to get to this stage - which is far too long. But it is clear now that the government has no option but to release the information to the families.

"There are very few people in our communities throughout Sefton Central who weren't touched in some way by the Hillsborough tragedy. But it is thanks to the determination of campaigners like Barry Devonside and his wife Jackie that we are finally approaching a stage where we will get all of the answers that have long been evaded."

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