Daughter of Royal Free Hospital worker killed at Hillsborough speaks out after inquest: ‘We had to go into care’
- Credit: Archant
Many mothers lost their children at Hillsborough – but only two children lost their mother that terrible day in April, 1989. They were Becky and Daniel Shah, aged 17 and 13 and living in Golders Green at the time of the disaster.
Their mother, Inger Shah, was a 38-year-old single parent working at the Royal Free hospital as a secretary when she was unlawfully killed in the crush, one of Hillsborough’s 96 victims.
Becky Shah, now aged 44, has spoken out about what happened to her after Hillsborough – because not only did she and her brother lose their mother, they also found themselves placed in the care system as teenagers, before having to fight for 27 years to see the truth finally acknowledged.
After last week’s inquest rulings, where it was found that the 96 were unlawfully killed and that the behaviour of Liverpool fans did not cause or contribute to the disaster, Becky Shah made a series of appearances on the BBC.
She said: “My mum was from Denmark and she always supported Liverpool because in Denmark you could only see two teams, either Leeds United or Liverpool, so she supported Liverpool because of the Beatles… she was a mad, mad Beatles fan – and then when she came to live in England she would always watch Liverpool on the telly.”
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Ms Shah said that she, her mum and brother started going to matches in 1985, and became season ticket holders – back in the days when ordinary, working people could afford to be – but Becky wasn’t able to get a ticket for the Hillsborough match – the FA cup semi-final of 1989.
She recalls: “I turned on the telly for Grandstand, and at ten past three, or whatever it was, Desmond Lyneham says, “We’re going over to Hillsborough now’... and in those days they used to show a picture of the stadium and have commentary, so that’s what I was expecting, and instead they went over to a live shot... I saw all these people walking on the pitch, and I couldn’t understand what was happening.
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“It was shortly after that that they said five people had died … and the death toll from there just rose and rose and rose… as soon as I saw this I was obviously very worried about my mum, and my brother and my friends, but especially about my mum. I just had this feeling all the time, you know,”
It was confirmed to her at about 6pm that her brother was safe –but she did not receive news of her mother’s death until the early hours of Sunday morning.
She said: “Nothing has ever rocked me like that has, and then my brother came back from Sheffield with some social workers because our mum was our only parent... and as soon as he got out of the car, just looking at him, I knew that he was a different person.”
Ms Shah said that she went to school on autopilot on the Monday, but when she returned, a social worker informed her that she and her brother were now in the care of social services.
She said the lies and the conspiracy that followed Hillsborough made a terrible tragedy all the harder to endure.
She said: “I remember hearing those lies about the exit gate being broken down, and I just couldn’t believe it because it just didn’t tally with what I’d seen on the TV. There was a completely false narrative right from the start and it became very difficult to fight those lies because we were just so bereaved and traumatised. Those lies were like the second bombshell. It was unbelievable.”
As she grew up, Ms Shah became more involved with the Hillsborough justice campaign.
“I knew right from the very start, from the very bottom of my heart, that this was a complete and total injustice, and I knew this from before I was old enough to vote, and I knew that I had to do something about it.”
She remembers her mother with great affection: “She was very upbeat, very fun loving, she had a great sense of humour.
“She also had a serious side, she liked to read books and discuss politics and world affairs, and I learned an awful lot from my mum about the world.
“She was more than a mother to me, she was a very special friend who will never, ever be replaced.”