HJC Details - Who we are & Why we're here

In this section you can read about some of the past and present members of the HJC - mothers, fathers, brothers, survivors and supporters - their stories in their words and why they continue to struggle for Justice.

There are still very many people affected by Hillsborough . If you are a survivor, we can assist in identifying sources of help and provide a space to talk with people who went through the same experiences.

We still need help to continue the legal struggle, some survivors of the disaster may be able to assist as witnesses in up coming court cases. There are many other ways you can help us and we can help with school projects, research etc.

Quick Find - Contact Us

The Hillsborough Justice Campaign
PO Box 1089
178 Walton Breck Road
L69 4WR
Tel / fax : 0151 2605262

email: hjcshop@tiscali.co.uk

Interview with Terry Burkett 10th April 2001

Q I want you to talk about in terms of the 12 years but I think if we just keep it as much to what you're doing now, if you just give some background, you know, sort of the fact that you lost Peter, Peter Burkett.

A Yeah. Well at the time of the disaster I always took the view that Peter had died almost immediately, and it wasn't until years after that, you know, you hear all these things, and I was watching obviously the progress of the Family Support Group and the papers all the time, what's going on there. I decided I would look into it then, and the Stuart-Smith thing was coming up then, so I sent for the body file and then I went into a bit of history of what had been happening, and I couldn't understand why they'd lost any cases, I really couldn't, you know. And one thing led to another and I decided I would join the Family Support Group and, you know, best to join them and fight from inside, you see.

Q The Family Support Group, how did it seem to you, how did it appear to you when you went into it?

A Well it wasn't a support group, you know, I don't see how he got the working for that because all it was, and every single meeting was just two or three hours of Trevor Hicks, that's all it was, it was nothing else. And the very first thing I heard him say at the first meeting, the very first meeting, he said, 'I'm pleased to tell everyone now that we are now a Trust, we are now the Hillsborough Family Support Group Trust.' And everybody clapped. And I thought, well that's not that easy, you know, to do that, and I knew that the disaster fund had been closed down, so I made enquiries a couple of days later and there hadn't been any application at all, you know, so I knew straight away. He threatened to resign every single time without fail at every meeting, and in the end I thought I've had enough here now, I said, when he was to expel John, I said, 'Is this open to the floor, this?' He said, 'Oh aye, yeah,' and he didn't know who I was or what I was going to say, and I got a lovely reception off him, everybody stood up clapping me when I finished, but none voted for me afterwards.

Q How did you feel when you saw that a so-called family support group was looking to expel a bereaved father?

A Well John Glover was under threat of it anyway, and the very first time I went, on the same day Dave Church was expelled at the first meeting, and they invited him back later, so he'd already been expelled, you know, and I questioned him. There had to be a motive for that, and now, knowing what I know now, I know that it's everybody who's got a little bit of nous and can see through authority and see through Trevor Hicks for what he is, then they are seen as a threat to him. He has made some crafty moves and some very suspicious moves, very dodgy.

Q Obviously, the dissatisfaction with the support group, is that what led you and others to feel there was the need to form a separate group, a campaigning group?

A Yeah, well, I watched the election being rigged.

Q In the support group?

A In the support group. For a start, there was no notification of an election. When we walked in they said, 'We're having an election today for a new committee.' What had happened the week before is we'd asked for a core of extra members to be put on the committee, to be organized and proactive, and he argued against it and argued against it, but he lost, you know, he lost the vote, and so we were expecting to vote a couple of the members on to the committee. But he went for a full election, and we got a piece of paper with eleven names on it, and what you had to do was tick 9 names, leave two names off, so I just ticked...on my piece of paper I ticked every one with the exception of - at the time I should say Phil Hammond had been off with his heart attack but he was there that day as a guest and he sat to one side with his wife - so I ticked every name bar Mr and Mrs Hicks, you know. And when I was handing my paper in, Dave Church was handing his in, and Dave Church had his name on it, on the form you see, no names on any of these bits of paper, it was just eleven names.

Q So it was anonymous.

A So I said, 'Have you got to put your name on it?' A little fella, I've forgotten his name, who was on the committee, he said, 'No, you don't have to, give us it,' and he took it off me, you see. And Dave Church said, 'Well I put my name on mine,' so I left it. Anyway, when I was sitting there, he said, 'Has everybody handed their papers in, there looks an awful lot more than 41 here to me?' So Phil Hammond did no more than stood up, him and his wife picked all the papers up and went behind the partition and went outside the meeting with all the papers, you see, and then when he come back with the result he said, 'OK, there was 41 papers, one of them's void because they checked every name off, so there's 40 papers, and the result is Trevor Hicks as chairman, 37.' So I already knew that Peter Tootle hadn't voted. After it all come out I went downstairs after the meeting and I said, 'I'll tell you now, I'm surprised,' I said. Peter said, 'I never voted,' and Dave said, 'I never voted,' and then John Glover said, 'I never voted,' and then somebody else said, 'I never voted.' John Harrison said, 'I never voted,' and one of the other ones of the Harrisons said, 'I never voted.' So about 7 people, which out of 40 papers makes it 33, they'd said 37, you see, so it was fiddled. Although there was no need to, because he would have won the chairmanship anyway, no doubt about that, but they were just making sure. And it was Phil Hammond who was on the ballot list who should never have touched the ballot votes anyway. And I've got a bit of experience about things like that and I know that you've got to have notice of a meeting so everybody gets a chance, there might have been people who might have wanted to vote who didn't vote. Anyway, so the whole thing stunk to me, and then John Glover mentioned, he said, 'Listen, there's a bit of a meeting in our house, you know,' he said. He rang me up and said, 'A few of us are meeting, do you fancy coming up to it?' and I said yeah, and I was very impressed with what was said, well not very impressed. I had always wondered why there wasn't survivors in the HFSG, and they'd been through all the arguments 'We're not having no survivors here, we don't need survivors, we don't want them and they're not welcome.' And I was pleased to get a chance, because in my view the survivors could tell us what happened to my lad, you know, what he suffered before he died, you know, and so I was pleased with that, and I was quite happy, and I was quite open about it. I knew he wouldn't like it but I didn't consider I would be expelled, because he said, at the next meeting he said... 'And this new group...' He said, 'Are you in it? - I was talking to him and I said, 'Yeah, I am, And of course they expelled us all for joining the HJC. It didn't matter much to me, but I was very disappointed in the people that went back.

Q Q.I think what surprised me about that episode was that the people who went back and why they went back, and I think it was an indication of how people are frightened to stand alone or stand their ground.

A Definitely, an awful lot, like, and I do believe some of them went back for money thinking they would get money out of it.

Q Because the group was more established.

A Yeah, they were just institutionalized towards the group, they just couldn't believe that they could do without Trevor Hicks.

Q Yeah, and that's been a process over a long period of time. But whilst they might have thought that the Justice Campaign would fold when people went back, it didn't, we know it didn't, in actual fact it went on to, you know, organize the boycott very successfully, and then, you know, if we take it up to the private prosecutions, I know that you feel strongly about how all that was organized.

A Well I just don't believe it should have ever have proceeded on the restricted basis.

Q But following that, I mean, you know, we all call the Stuart-Smith Scrutiny the stitch-up, and I think you were of the opinion that the private prosecution was just a further element of that stitch-up.

A I think they were clearly offered a deal - they were not going to get prison, if they were found gulity. Then the establishment could say that we have had our Justice.

Q Were you surprised when you actually saw that in black and white before the case proceeded when we got hold of the judge's ruling that stated that, did you not see that as like a kind of rubbing your nose in it?

A Oh yeah, without a doubt, and I think it was designed to blacken us anyway, and because the general opinion was if you look at it to the ordinary public, we're actually after money, and they put it in the paper that we want money.

Q You were there on the first day when you and others were described in court as demonstrators who'd been distributing leaflets and there was a further warning as to what would happen if that continued. How did you feel about that? Because you found yourself sitting in a courtroom with the judge passing a ruling over something that happened.

A Well the thing that annoyed me most about that was that he slapped a D-notice on us which prevented us from defending ourselves and going to the press. We hadn't done anything illegal or against the court, you know, and it was just designed to blacken us. We were treated like we were the defendants , weren't we, you know, that was my view throughout the whole thing, but I honestly didn't think that they should do that. Like I say, if I want my gas central heating fixed and I ring up a company to come along and fix it, ruin my carpet, I don't sue the plumber, I sue the company, and if anybody should be in court it should have been the chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, and, you know, Trevor Hicks friend, because we know now that he was...are you aware of it, that they knew each other before Hillsborough . It's in one of the reports, you know. They knew each other anyway.

Q What did you think...when we were in Leeds my perception was that we, you know, those in the Justice Campaign were perceived as a fly in the ointment, we were potentially spoiling the smooth running of things.

A Oh yes.

Q But how did you feel, as a bereaved father how did you feel when you saw the conduct of other bereaved parents in the Family Support Group, how they conducted themselves throughout the whole proceedings?

A Everyone I looked at turned their back on me, and I've never ever done nothing to them other than object to Trevor Hicks being the chairman of the Family Support Group.

Q But we felt that the private prosecutions, were a diversionary tactic to conceal the facts, not to reveal them. With that in mind we were creating our website to move things forward to actually make accessible to the general public the truth of Hillsborough . Now we know and we've recorded that prior to the cases in June that we were brought before the court and threatened with imprisonment if we went ahead with the launch of our website on the eleventh anniversary. How did that make you feel, that potentially they were, you know, one group of bereaved people were trying to get another group who'd lost people in the same disaster, put in prison?

A Well with hindsight I think we should have stood our ground.

Q No, I'm referring to when we actually, we were in the High Court.

A Oh I see.

Q In April.

A I don't know. How can you explain it to people, it seems ludicrous to me that you can be opposite sides in a court in exactly the same circumstances.

Q On the day before the eleventh anniversary?

Q So on that day we played ball and we agreed to hold off the launch and abide by the judge's ruling until after the cases had finished, so when we launched our website on the day of the decision, it ran for a week before we were threatened with legal action.

A It's at that point that I feel we should have stood our ground and let them take us to court.

Q What do you feel, given that at this stage the solicitor's letter that we received actually named those people who were going to take action against us, they named the individuals, does that maybe indicate that those individuals were the most frightened, what was going to be said about them?

A Well, let's be honest, the ordinary people in the group never said a word, did they, and I doubt they were even aware of what was going on.They wouldn't have discussed, they would have been told what was happening, they wouldn't have had an input into anything.

Q So generally do you feel they would be unaware that it was even going on?

A Yeah, mostly, yeah. You know, and Dave Church, bumped into a family last week or the week before, and they said to him keep on fighting. He said to me, 'He wanted to put me in gaol a couple of months ago, you know.'

Q When that happened and it later came to light that what the other families, when they were made aware of what the Support Group was pursuing against us, how did you feel when it came to light that their intention was to sue us for libel and basically divvy the money up, any money they won off us, or were awarded against us, divvy it up amongst themselves?

A Well I would find...frankly I find it hard to believe that most of the families would know anything about that. Again, I think it's a matter of the hierarchy deciding for everyone. My idea was the committee, or certain people in the hierarchy of the Family Support Group, controlled all that. Those people wouldn't have voted, they wouldn't have debated, they wouldn't have had an input, no question of it, the bugbear, the fly in the ointment throughout the whole of the previous 12 years had been, apart from the police themselves ( ), the whole bugbear has been the Family Support Group and the representatives, the legal representatives of the Family Support Group.

Q Leading on to that, Terry, since the papers, documents from the Stuart-Smith Scrutiny, have been made available to us in the City Library, I know that you and Dave have been doing a lot of work on it - what do you think has been most revealing from the documents that you've read, what have you learned that you didn't know, or what have you been able to confirm that you might have had suspicions of before?

A The thing that sticks out most is the obvious cover-up by the Establishment, and this is the thing that gets me angry more than anything else, the fact that Peter died, and all them people died, and people tried to cover up, but it's the level of the people who tried to cover up, and I would feel the Establishment itself are very casual about it, aren't they, they don't need to work at it, they just dismiss it, you know, with a wave of the hand, and it's that that gets me most, that they let us go on for all this time and knowing full well that the evidence was there - writing letter after letter and you get letters back and all you have to do is throw a little bit of confusion again and put us back to stage one, you know. It's the fact that there's a cover-up. I used to think, well are we being paranoid here, you know, and we're not, there is no doubt whatsoever to me and I do believe that we kept on because we're Liverpool people, and because I don't believe we give up it's not a place like that .The cover up started with Taylor. People were mislead by Taylor, they thought he was wonderful - but he was part of it.

Q Where do you think Taylor failed?

A Taylor failed by denying most of the bereaved and injured the right to legal representation.

Q Could you expand on that a bit?

A There's a document dated 24 April which was a preliminary sitting of the Taylor Report before it started properly on the Monday, and Taylor said...King stood up and said, 'I'm representing some of the bereaved families,' and Taylor said, 'Right OK, you can represent all the bereaved and all the injured, all the Hillsborough victims,' and Rex Makin stood up and said, 'Well just a minute, we can't have that because I've got 200 clients.' Where the hell he got 200 clients between the 16th and the 24th I'll never know. And Taylor said to him, 'Well you give your 200 clients to King, all the bereaved and injured can only have one representative. The legal representation we eventually got was of poor standard, They all just played the game. We were up against it at every stage - the inquiry and the inquest, we only had one barrister up against all the other barristers, and so the others were allowed to dominate.

Q So you think the issue of group representation was part and parcel of the cover-up really?

A Oh yeah. We should have changed our representation, but we were stifled and controlled by the Hillsborough Steering Committee of Solicitors.

Q So it was all about control, and it was controlled in the aftermath.

A Anybody who's got 5 barristers against one is going to lose, and that was the main issue.Every time we went into court we were outnumbered and outmanouvred. Also because the HFSG agreed to that course of action then that restricted our chances of appealing any decisions.

Q So 12 years on from losing your son, why are you still fighting? How have you still got the strength to fight, and what reasons make you carry on?

A It's easy. I wouldn't be able to live with myself. I've tried to give it up. Sometimes I think of my family, we don't need any more evidence, we only need for a jury to see the stuff we've got. I'm sure, I don't see a jury in the land going against us with

Q And you're referring largely to the issue of safety, aren't you?

A I am indeed, yeah, because there's no question about it, there must be a million safety books to back us up, there's no doubt about that. They've won the battle as regards to length of time and abuse of process and things like that, they think they've won the battle on that, you know, but there must be a way round it, there must be some way you can get through. Unfortunately, it's a Catch 22, if we release too much of the information we have, it can be brought back against you as abuse of process, so to come out with everything you've got out in the public, most of it is already in the public, to put it out in the public in the way you've gathered it together and put it together, you could endanger your chances.

Q But suffice it to say that you and others are still pursuing legal avenues and feel now that you have the evidence to back up issues you've long believed in, yes?.

A There is still more evidence to come, but if we stop getting evidence now, I don't honestly believe that any jury would ever turn us down.

Q On a very personal level, 12 years on, how would you say losing your son, and not just losing Peter but the subsequent procedure, the cover-up, the disappointment with the Support Group that was supposed to work for you and with you, how do you feel that's taken its toll on you in terms of your own well-being, your own health, your own state of mind?

A Well nobody can say, you can go back to '89 and I know the situation I was in in '89 was a happy one, an extremely happy one. I had 28grand in the bank and two years later I had an 18 grand overdraft. I've lost my licence, lost my job, lost the lot.

It takes a lot to stand up and admit to things. I finished seeing a counsellor only before Christmas, I had my last counselling session, and I wished I'd took it earlier because my wife was the same, you only exist, don't you, it's not living, it's existing, and the whole family is the same. Life has never been the same since and it never will be again.

Q Does that make you all the more determined?

A Oh yeah, there's no question about it. Not just the disaster but what they've done since, you know. I have no intentions or no plans to do anything else, and it's not a matter of get a life, I couldn't do anything else, even if I end up on my own.

Q You said earlier that in establishing the campaign...one of the reasons you were interested in the campaign, in establishing the campaign, was working with survivors. A few years on from the inception of the campaign, do you think that was right, do you think being involved with survivors has assisted you and maybe offered a mutual support?

A I think they should have been in it from day one. I mean, if I'd known at the time of the disaster that there were organizations of survivors, I never knew of anything like that. All I know is that the pathologist in the inquest said it was like going to sleep but it wasn't like that at all, you know. I can't believe it, you know, and perhaps at the end of the day if you ever find out what happened to them and if you found that it was like going to sleep, it would be great, but I can't believe it because I have listened to the survivors. I know the hell they went through.

Q When you think back to Peter, and Peter's character, the fact that you're still fighting, do you think would Peter have been like that, would he have wanted that?

A Oh no doubt at all. Justice was very important to him. I know he would never have accepted the official version of Hillsborough , never accepted it.

Q Which makes it all the more important to fight.

A Yeah, I mean, like you said, I don't see any point in giving up ... what they've done to my family in the last 12 years, and I say my family as an instance, I mean everybody. Apart from the disaster itself, I'm more angry about what people have done and caused since than the actual disaster itself. If somebody had stood up and said, 'Look, it's our fault,' we could have come to terms with that but they didn't and what they have done by lying and covering up the truth has made me and others all the more determined to fight on and publicly assert the truth of Hillsborough . I owe that to Peter. We all owe it the 96 who lost their lives.

Q Is there anything else you want to say?

A No.