Hillsborough victim’s wife meets the man who carried him from pitch
Written by News on 16/04/2019
Thirty years on from the Hillsborough disaster, Liverpool has fallen silent to remember the 96 people who died.
The city observed a moment’s silence at 3.06pm on Monday, the exact time the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest was stopped on 15 April 1989.
Flowers were laid at St George’s Hall by family members, who have been remembering their loved ones with particular poignancy ahead of the anniversary.
Margaret Matthews still feels guilt about the packed lunch she made for her husband Brian 30 years ago.
They’d had a silly row the night before so she got up early, pulled back the curtains and thought to herself “what a beautiful day to be alive”.
It was 15 April 1989.
There was bright spring sunshine and clear blue skies over their home in Knowsley, Merseyside, so she grabbed the dog and walked down to the bakery in the parade of shops 500 yards along her road.
She bought bread rolls, ham on the bone and some turkey and then headed back to their kitchen to make Brian’s picnic lunch – he was still in bed but due to head off later to Sheffield to watch Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final.
It was such a warm spring day that she hesitated as she reached for the biscuit cupboard.
Mrs Matthews said: “I was thinking I’d better put some KitKats in because they were his favourite snack and I didn’t put the KitKats in… and he commented on the way to Hillsborough, to Sheffield, that ‘Margie hadn’t packed me the KitKats’ and I felt tremendously guilty for years after that because he didn’t have his favourite chocolate treat before he went into the game.”
After knocking up the packed lunch she took her husband cheese on toast in bed and mentioned a parcel had been delivered to the house.
“It’s a gift for you,” Brian said.
It was a red dress he’d bought for his wife and it oddly prompted them to have a discussion about their own funerals and what they would like to happen.
Within a couple of hours Margaret had waved him off from the front door.
He was smiling, happy and up for the match.
It was the last time she would see her 38-year-old bank manager husband alive.
“He was not a scallywag with a scarf,” she told me with a meaningful look.
The way the Liverpool fans were portrayed in the aftermath of the deadly crush at Hillsborough still hurts.
It is perhaps the greatest injustice that all of the families still feel.
The narrative that they were drunk, violent, low-life hooligans that brought the tragedy on themselves was disproved at the inquests a few years back.
Mrs Matthews said: “It is horrible because he wasn’t a scallywag who went round pickpocketing. He was a bank manger he had had a good life, a good upbringing and he had done well in his profession, he’d been a good husband to me.”
Even after 30 years there is still unfinished business from the tragedy.
Mrs Matthews told me that she’d never been able to trace the eight individuals who carried her husband across the pitch on one of the advertising hoardings that had been torn down to create makeshift stretchers.
She showed me the picture that she was given by a solicitor during the inquests: “This is Brian… here with a blue denim shirt, white trousers and he has only got one shoe on and there’s at least eight people carrying him… I think he is obviously dead then, to be honest I think he died on the pitch.
“I don’t really think he is alive in that. They were taking him to the gymnasium.”
As she gazes at the freeze frame image of the aftermath she said: “Just to me he was sunbathing, it sounds daft, when I saw him in the mortuary he looked so perfect because you can’t die at 38 and look horrible and I just said to them if I take him home and warm him up and give him some hot water bottles and blankets he’ll be fine in the morning, really I just wanted to bring him home.”
There were two names at the bottom of the picture with thin lines drawn to two of the men carrying Brian.
One of them, Carl Webber, proved fairly easy to find and readily agreed to meet her after all these years.
So we got them together on a Monday afternoon in a modern pub close to Mrs Matthews’ home.
The pub was quiet and she walked in to hug Carl and then sat down to start sharing the experience they’ve both carried separately throughout their adult lives.
“Thank you,” Margie said first of all “on behalf of me and Brian’s three sisters thank you.”
Carl Webber was 18 years old and working at Hillsborough that day selling snacks and refreshments.
As they sat together the memories kept coming, filling in the gaps that they both still have.
He remembers how big the pitch felt as they tried to race across it carrying Brian on the stretcher.
“We got him to the gymnasium and people carried on treating him there,” he said.
That was something Mrs Matthews did not know, she’d assumed he’d been dropped off at the gymnasium and that was it.
Later that night it was in that building that they broke the news to her and she then unzipped his body bag to say goodbye despite not quite believing what had happened.
Mr Webber says he simply did what loads of other people did that day and just helped as much as he could in the face of an overwhelming situation.
He went home after the tragedy had unfolded but then returned to the stadium later that night to sit on the pitch and to try and take in what he’d witnessed.
“I needed to know it wasn’t a dream because it was just so awful, it was just so awful,” he said.
In death, Brian Matthews was posthumously awarded the freedom of the city of Liverpool, along with all of the victims at Hillsborough.
People on Merseyside just instinctively understand the injustice that has haunted the families for the past three decades and why some have found it desperately hard to move on.
Before I can finish asking the question about how the rest of the country feels about Hillsborough, Mrs Matthews jumps in with one word – “cynical”.
She knows that many people will say they have heard enough about Hillsborough now.
“Thirty years is a long time – it’s a generation and a half,” she said.
“There’s been a lot of tragedies in the interim it didn’t just end there it had a knock on effect in most families hasn’t it? Brian’s mum and dad were never the same.”
The stories are echoed in many of the families that lost loved ones.
People who died without ever seeing the record put straight at the inquests.
“There will be history books written about it won’t there?” Margie said.
“My grandchildren go to school now and learn about Hillsborough. It’s amazing and I was part of that bit of history.
“Brian made the supreme sacrifice, in a way, but I think he’d be proud of me, maybe I have had bad years in between, but I hope he’d be proud of me.”
Her voice trails off deep in thought.
Thirty years since he smiled and waved to her on the doorstep and disappeared down the driveway.
(c) Sky News 2019: Hillsborough victim’s wife meets the man who carried him from pitch