Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Hillsborough's Trevor Hicks meets 'hero' police officer

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Media captionThe reunion between two men whose lives were changed by the Hillsborough tragedy

A father who lost his two daughters in the Hillsborough disaster has been reunited with the policeman who tried to help them on the day of the tragedy.

Trevor Hicks's daughters Sarah, 19, and Victoria, 15, were among the 96 who died as a result of the 1989 disaster.

Mr Hicks's last meeting with Peter McGuinness was when he was working as a young constable on the day of the tragedy and tried to save Victoria.

It was down to the policeman to break the news of her death to Mr Hicks.

Mr Hicks said: "What he did was awful for him, but I see it as being a hero for me and that is something I need to say publicly."

Something wrong

Sarah and Victoria went with their father to the Leppings Lane end of Sheffield Wednesday's stadium for the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on 15 April.

However, they became separated.

Meanwhile Mr McGuinness had been drafted in to police the match and was working one of his final shifts as a uniformed officer before joining CID.

He said as the game got under way it soon became apparent something was wrong.

As fans began to get crushed in the two pens, Mr McGuinness pulled Victoria on to the pitch.

Medics worked on Sarah alongside them while the officer and Mr Hicks tried to revive Victoria.

She was taken in an ambulance to the Northern General Hospital with Mr McGuiness and her father still trying to resuscitate her.

At the hospital, the officer stayed with Victoria while doctors tried to save her.

Image caption Mr Hicks's daughters became separated from their father when they were inside the stadium

Mr McGuinness said: "Unfortunately at some point they stopped and said she'd gone and I was faced with the sad job of informing Trevor."

That was the last time the two men saw each other.

During the intervening years, Mr Hicks has been at the forefront of a campaign to get justice for the families of the Liverpool fans.

As chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, he has always blamed policing failures on the day for the deaths.

The group campaigned for the release of all relevant documents, which led to the formation of the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

'Moral dilemma'

Last September a report by the panel found some of the dead might have been saved and said police had changed witness statements and tried to blame Liverpool fans.

In December, the High Court quashed the original inquest verdicts of accidental death and ordered new inquests to be held.

Despite the bitter divide between victims' families and police, Mr Hicks has always been grateful for Mr McGuinness's efforts to help save his family.

Image caption A private prosecution was brought by the Hillsborough Families Support Group

The only contact between the two men over the years was a letter written by Mr Hicks in 1989 commending the officer's actions on the day.

Addressed to the then South Yorkshire Police chief constable Peter Wright, it said: "For some time I have wrestled with the moral dilemma of wishing to commend one of your constables and yet find it extremely difficult to write to yourself for reasons of which you aware.

"I wish to commend the actions of Pc 1926 (Peter John McGuinness)...

"It is my belief that the officer, under extremely harrowing conditions, did all he could to assist the attempt to save Victoria, and did so in a professional and caring way."

Now they have been reunited to enable Mr Hicks to thank him in person.

Speaking after their meeting, which took place in Sheffield's Hillsborough memorial park, Mr Hicks said: "We've crossed a personal divide.

"I didn't see this as the two sides, South Yorkshire Police versus the families.

"I see this as me the individual saying thank you to another individual who happened to be a young police officer on the day for what he did to help."

'Stiff handshake'

Mr McGuinness said: "My instinct was to give him a hug as I did all those years back in the hospital when I told him the terrible news.

"But somehow the hug became a stiff handshake."

He added: "After 30 years you sort of think you're hardened to various aspects of life and death.

"Getting back to the human interaction with Trevor it's been a reminder of what's this all about.

"This was about Victoria, his daughter Sarah and all the other victims. In amongst that there's such a tragic story."

Both men, who embraced when they parted, said they planned to meet again in the future.

See more on this on Inside Out on Monday 18 February on BBC1 at 19:30 GMT.

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