Hillsborough inquest jury concludes 96 victims were unlawfully killed

The 96 fans who died at Hillsborough in 1989 were unlawfully killed, the jury in the inquest into Britain's worst sporting disaster has concluded.

The jury of six women and three men gave their decisions at a hearing in Warrington on Tuesday morning on a highly charged day for relatives of the 96, with many of those relatives appearing in court for the end of the longest jury proceedings in British legal history.

The Hillsborough disaster unfolded during Liverpool's FA Cup tie against Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989, as thousands of fans were crushed at Sheffield Wednesday's ground. Overall match commander chief superintendent David Duckenfield gave the order at 2:52 p.m. to open exit Gate C in Leppings Lane, allowing around 2,000 fans to flood into the already-packed central pens behind the goal.

The jury concluded it was unlawful killing by a 7-2 majority. The jurors answered 14 questions at the inquest, including question No. 6, which asks: "Are you satisfied, so that you are sure, that those who died in the disaster were unlawfully killed?"

Before they were sent out on April 6 to start their deliberations, jurors were told they could decide it was an unlawful killing only if Duckenfield owed a duty of care to those who died in the disaster and was in breach of that duty of care. Third, they would need to be satisfied that his breach of duty caused the deaths and, fourth, that it amounted to gross negligence.

The conclusion on Tuesday was greeted with sobbing and cheers at the hearing as it was read out and the victims' families later declared that justice had finally been done.

The jury also ruled that fan behaviour did not cause or contribute to the tragedy.

Jurors gave their conclusions having answered a general questionnaire of 14 questions as well as a record of the time and cause of death for each of the Liverpool fans, 27 years after the disaster on April 15, 1989.

These include questions about the police planning before the game, stadium safety, events on the day, the emergency services' response to the disaster and whether the fans were unlawfully killed. On Wednesday, the jury indicated to the court in Warrington that unanimous decisions had already been made on every question other than No. 6.

They were given a majority direction on Monday and indicated they had reached a majority decision on the outstanding question.

The hearings have been ongoing for more than two years, with the jury having heard evidence from around 1,000 witnesses.

The fresh inquests began on March 31, 2014, in a specially built courtroom in Warrington.

Dozens of relatives of the victims have attended each of the more than 300 days the court has sat at Bridgewater Place on the Cheshire town's Birchwood Park business park.

At the start of the inquests, the coroner said none of the victims should be blamed for their deaths.

Emotional tributes to each of the 96 were then delivered by family members in the form of personal portraits.

The 1991 accidental-death verdicts from the original inquests were quashed following the 2012 Hillsborough Independent Panel report after a long campaign by the families of the dead.