Families of the Hillsborough victims burst into applause as they were informed criminal charges will be brought, more than 28 years after the deaths of their relatives.
Barry Devonside, whose 18-year-old son Christopher was killed, said he had been “frightened” prior to the private meeting between families and the Crown Prosecution Service in Warrington yesterday.
He said: “Everyone applauded when it was announced the most senior police officer on that particular day will have charges presented to him.”
Struggling to hold back tears, Mr Devonside said Christopher had been a “perfect son” who would have been 46 years old this year.
Evelyn McDonnell Mills, whose brother Peter McDonnell, 21, died in the disaster, said: “I’m really happy that we’ve finally got some charges after 28 years.
“I’m just sad that my brother Gerard, who campaigned for years, died in the first year of the new inquests and never got to see justice.”
Donna Miller was 22 when her 19-year-old brother Paul Carlile died at Hillsborough.
Now aged 50 and speaking in the moments before the announcement, she said the day carried particular poignancy for her after the death of their mother Sandra Stringer earlier this year.
“My mum died on April 26, exactly one year since the inquest verdict.
“It is difficult for me.
“When I held her in my arms after the verdict, little did I know she would die that day in 12 months.
“She was totally exhausted by it all.
“My mum had longed for this day.
“It has been hell at times for 28 years.
“The hardest thing is making people listen, people wanted us to just go away.
“We have put our lives on hold to fight for justice.”
Hillsborough Family Support Group chairman Margaret Aspinall said it is the “beginning of the end” for the families as she spoke to the media outside Parr Hall in Warrington yesterday morning.
Mrs Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James was among the victims, said: “No one should have to go through what the families have gone through for 28 years to try and get to the truth and to get accountability.
“What has been achieved today will change things for the good of this nation.
“I think that’s the legacy of our 96, that they will have left behind.”
Trevor Hicks, whose teenage daughters Sarah, 19, and Vicki, 15, died in the disaster at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final, said: “This is a success for society at large, not just for us.”
Mr Hicks, who lives in Keighley and went on to become a key figure in the Hillsborough Family Support Group, added yesterday: “We move another step forward.”