A COUPLE who died in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster were “in love” and “very, very happy”, the new inquests into the 96 deaths have heard.
Sheffield students Tracey Cox, 23, and her boyfriend Rick Jones, 25, went to the semi-final at the stadium in the city with Mr Jones’s sister Stephanie Conning, who read a tribute to her friend Miss Cox at the fourth day of the hearing in Warrington.
Mrs Conning, who survived the tragedy, stood in court with her mother, Doreen Jones, who spoke about her son as one of several background statements read out yesterday during the new inquests into Britain’s worst ever sporting disaster.
And when Mrs Jones became more and more upset and had to stop mid-sentence, Mrs Conning took over reading her brother’s tribute from her mother.
Mrs Jones said: “My pain is centred on what Rick and Tracey have missed and what our lives would be like now had they not been killed. After all they only went to watch a game of football.”
She said: “We, as a family, were so lucky to have had Rick for 25 years. The memories of the joy he brought me runs along with pain of his not being here. He was decent human being.....”
Mrs Jones became too emotional to carry on at this point and her daughter took over reading the statement.
Mrs Conning said: “.........quick witted, with a lovely sense of humour, generous with his time, fun to be with and sensitive to the needs of others.”
The jury was told by Mrs Jones that the pair were students in Sheffield. Her son had a degree in chemistry and was looking forward to postgraduate opportunities and a “bright future” in research.
She said Miss Cox was studying speech therapy and was awarded her degree posthumously.
Mrs Jones told the jury: “Our lives changed forever that awful day. I could not imagine life without my son and nor did I want a life without him. It was a very dark place for us all.”
She said the couple’s flatmate told her: “I knew they were in love. I believe they were very, very happy. They had so many friends who loved them.”
Mrs Conning said: “I would like to say that Trace was the funniest girl I knew. She was the sister I never had and it was both a privilige to know her and to read her pen portrait today. Tracey touched a number of people’s lives in such different ways with her caring and selfless nature. We’ve been deprived of so much of Tracey’s life - her marriage, children and her growing old with family and those who lived and cherished her.”
Yesterday saw the first nine background statements given about those who died in the tragedy. Portraits of all 96 victims will be given in the coming days as part of the year-long inquests.
As family member after family member came to the witness box to recount their memories of their loved ones, a number of the 250 people in the purpose-built courtroom were in tears.
Earlier, Kathleen Thompson had to stop a number of times to compose herself and wipe away tears as she read a statement about her husband, Patrick Thompson.
Mrs Thompson told the 11 jurors: “Even now my children love their dad so much and it gets harder for them. They’re adults now and all they want is justice for their dad.
“Please listen to the evidence and let my children know that their dad was not a hooligan but a hard-working family man who just happened to love football.”
After the nine statements had been read by the families, Lord Justice Goldring said to the jury: “They are, are they not, members of the jury, as moving as I said they would be. It underlines, doesn’t it, the individual tragedies of this disaster.”
The coroner adjourned the inquests until Monday.