The 97th victim of the Hillsborough disaster, Andrew Devine, has been posthumously awarded the Freedom of Liverpool today – on what would have been his 56th birthday.
Andrew’s family, led by his mother Hilary, accepted the Freedom status at a private ceremony in Liverpool Town Hall, which included guests such as Liverpool FC legend Sir Kenny Dalglish and fellow Freeman of the City, award-winning screen writer Jimmy McGovern.
Liverpool Lord Mayor, Councillor Mary Rasmussen, led the ceremony paying tribute to Andrew and the support his family gave him in the years after the 1989 football stadium tragedy at which 96 other people were unlawfully killed.
Liverpool City Council conferred honorary Freedom of the City status on the 96 victims in September 2016, after the families were awarded the honour in 2009.
Andrew passed away last July due to complications from the life-changing injuries he suffered in the Leppings Lane terrace at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest.
Jimmy’s 1996 docu-drama, which vividly portrayed Britain’s worst sporting disaster, is heralded as the catalyst for the victims’ families pursuit to successfully overturn the findings of the original inquest. Hilary and Stan were special guests at Jimmy’s Freedom ceremony in March.
Speaking last December, Hilary and Andrew’s father Stanley, said: “It’s an honour for Andrew to receive this special recognition. He loved his city. He was a very proud scouser. For us it means he will always be remembered and that is what makes it important to us.”
Hilary and Stan also talked about how the club had supported them revealing that legends such as former club and England captain Emlyn Hughes, ex-manager Bob Paisley and Australia star Craig Johnston frequently visited them whilst they stayed with Andrew in hospital in the aftermath of the disaster, with Emlyn often taking their clothes to be washed.
They also recalled the story of the 2019 Champions League victory parade bus stopping outside their house so midfield star James Milner could show the trophy to Andrew.
At today’s ceremony Andrew’s brother Graham said on behalf of the family: “The club gave a huge amount of support to Andrew, and mum and dad, behind the scenes and it was always a great comfort for the family to see how much they cared.
“The family also want to single out Tony Barrett, the Head of Club and Supporter Engagement, for his support over the years and particularly around Andrew’s funeral.
“We’re all very proud of Andrew and it’s very special to be here today on what would have been his 56th birthday to receive the Freedom of Liverpool on his behalf.”
Longtime Hillsborough campaigner Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram was also in attendance at the ceremony as well as Deputy Mayor Councillor Jane Corbett and Liverpool FC chaplain Bill Bygroves, who both spoke at the event highlighting the inspirational love and dedication of Andrew’s family.
After the ceremony, which concluded with an emotional rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone by Liverpool’s “Singer in Residence” Danielle Thomas, the Lord Mayor showed Hilary and family the recently inscribed Freedom of Liverpool plaques honouring the 97.
There was also the added significance as today also marks the anniversary of Liverpool FC winning the FA Cup – and league double – in 1986 and European Cup in 1978.