TWO young sisters who were amongst the 96 Hillsborough victims crushed to death held on to each other as they struggled to breathe before disappearing from sight, an inquest into the tragedy heard.
Sarah Hicks, 19, and her younger sister Victoria, 15, had been standing in the central pens behind the goal on the Leppings Lane terrace as the match began.
Witnesses said that the two sisters had moved nearer to the front of the pen “to get out of the surges” as the crush built up.
Spectator Jeffrey Rex said that he had seen the two sisters in front of him and that Victoria - referred to as Vicky in the inquest - had her head tilted to the side as her sister tried to support her.
He said that the crowd had begun shouting to the police to get them out.
“It went beyond anything I had ever experienced before, in instinct I thought ‘this was something different our lives are being threatened’.”
People had believed they were standing on bodies, but that there was “nothing you could do”.Spectator Jeffrey Rex
Witnesses said they had noticed the girls “because they seemed to be the only females in the area”.
The inquest heard evidence that the ground went “very soft” and people had believed they were standing on bodies, but that there was “nothing you could do”.
Mr Rex, reliving the event, said that a man directly in front of him had shouted “push back push back, they’re in trouble”.
He told the Hillsborough Inquest sitting in Warrington that he “caught a glimpse” of Sarah supporting her sister.
He said: “What I did see was the elder of the two sisters, Sarah, was holding the younger one Vicky, supporting her. A man was trying to get the crowd to push back. He did this for several minutes, there was no doubt his intention was to try and protect the two girls.
“The crash had got to such a level there was nothing anybody could do. He was saying to me ‘please push back, please push back’.”
The Liverpool season ticket holders, together with their father Trevor and mother Jenni, had travelled from their home in Middlesex and arrived at the ground for the FA Cup Semi-final against Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989.
Their mother Jenni was sitting in another part of the stadium and after a picnic lunch at their car they had made their way to the ground at 1.40pm, arranging to meet afterwards at a shop nearby.
Footage shown to the jury showed the family approaching the stadium before Mr Hicks and his daughters were captured entering the Leppings Lane terrace.
The inquest heard that Sarah and Vicky separated from their father, who went to buy a programme, and the sisters went to stand with friends in the terraces.
Mr Hicks, who described Sarah as a “classic A student” who had turned down Oxford University and Imperial College in favour of Liverpool University, had intended to stand near to the girls but “had forgotten about the fences separating the pens”.
He said that his daughter Vicky had been “determined to be a sports writer” who would produce secret match reports in her bedroom after every trip to Anfield.
He added that she had “wonderfully long dark black hair” adding she was a “a lovely girl who could charm the monkeys out of the trees”.
Mr Rex told the inquest that he saw the younger of the two girls “deteriorating”.
In his statement read to the inquest, taken at the time he said: “The young one was being held by her sister. She was in a bad way, head tilted to one side. I think the younger Hicks girl may have been unconscious.”
He told the inquest: “She was affected very badly by the crush, probably one of the first people in pen three to be affected by the crush.”
He added that he saw one man’s face “disappear” and another shout, “I’m dying I’m dying” before vomiting.
Pictures of the Hicks sisters in the pen were shown to the jury.
Another witness Alan Brookes said he saw the sisters “sweating profusely” and “seemed to be having difficulty breathing”.
He told the inquest: “I presume they had gone down, they wasn’t there. One minute they went forward, again in another surge they wasn’t there. You were just trying to keep breathing and just do your best to stay alive.”
Fan Sean Fortune, in a statement taken this year, said the two Hicks sisters had been standing next to him.
He said he had later identified the girls by news footage telling of their death.
He said: “As it got closer to 3pm it got worse. The two girls were still nearby. The dark haired girl was visibly upset and crying. At this time people were shouting at the police to help these girls, ‘they are in trouble can you do something?’. Anyone short didn’t have much chance.”
Mr Fortune, in a statement from 1989 that was read to the inquest, said that initially Pens three and four had been “quite empty” at around 1.35pm but that it “seemed as though a large burst of people just hit the back of the pen. We as a crowd pushed several yards forward. It happened about six times.”
He added that he “could tell the pen was becoming quite tightly packed with fans pushed against the barrier”.
The statement read: “I remember two girls who stood next to us when we first got in. I recall Jeff remarking his luck was in. I remember that one of the girls had dark hair, the other reddish hair. The dark haired girl was crying and seemed in some distress.”
He added that the crowd was telling police, “this girl was in trouble”.
He added: “They didn’t seem to hear. All of a sudden I felt a surge on my back, a moment later a bigger surge. I was waiting for the crush to ease but it just didn’t. People were beginning to slip down.”
In Mr Fortune’s evidence given in 1991 he said that he “knew one of them was in trouble”.
“It got quite bad, she was only a small girl so she couldn’t look after herself. People were shouting to the police ‘these girls are in trouble, can you do something’ but I don’t think anything was done at the time.
“There had been so many surges that I think they had got pushed about.”
Witness Paul Hand said that the girls had declined help despite looking “very distressed”.
He said that despite pressure building and fans around them asking if they wanted to get out, Sarah had refused, adding that he had “very confidently” heard her say no.
Mr Hand told the inquest: “People around the girls asked if they wanted to get out but the older sister said ‘no we’re alright’. I could see in their faces they both wanted to stay although both were distressed. They both wanted to stay. Just a gut feeling.”
He added that after the final surge they disappeared from sight.
“The final surge they just went. They couldn’t move there was nowhere to move.”
Brian Doyle told the inquest he saw Vicky with her eyes half open and head resting on her sister’s shoulder before vomiting.
He said he heard one of the sisters sob “can someone help my sister” with a look of “total terror”.
He told the inquest that he had tried to pull Sarah up but that it had been “impossible” because she was “too tightly packed in”.
“I tried to pull her out until I lost my grip on her. I couldn’t get her off the floor. I just had hold of her hand, she was crying for someone to help her. Then people were grabbing my hand and I just lost her.”
Another witness, Paul Taylor, was able to pull “a lifeless” Vicky from the crowd.
He said she had been lying backwards and told the inquest that he carried her to the side of the pen before trying to give her the kiss of life although “I realised then she was dead”.
“It was just the lifelessness of her and the smell and the way her eyes and mouth were. It just didn’t look like a normal response to someone who may be still living.”
He was to tell the inquest that he removed her cardigan and pulled it over her face.
Mr Taylor was thanked by the Hicks family through their solicitor for his efforts.