Hillsborough disaster: Pictures that will never fade for Star man

Star photographer: Steve Ellis.
Star photographer: Steve Ellis.
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STAR photographer Steve Ellis still can’t bear to look at some of the pictures he took on that day in April 1989.

Steve, also Sheffield Wednesday’s official photographer, was at Hillsborough working for the club and the things he saw will stay with him for the rest of his life.

“I can’t remember everything from the day but there are certain things that I will never forget,” said Steve, now aged 57.

“The really upsetting thing was the faces up against the fencing. I would not want to look at some of those pictures again. They would be the ones I presume would have died.

“At the time we thought they were just being pushed against the fence and that they would be alright after. No-one died at a football match, or that’s what we thought then.”

Football grounds were subsequently transformed following the Taylor Report into the disaster and the fences that caged fans in are now just a dreadful memory.

“When I look back at the pictures now I can’t believe that people were treated like that, like animals in a zoo caged in,”added Steve.

“It’s hard to imagine now. I remember at the beginning when people started to try and climb out of the terracing that police pushed them back over the fences thinking they were trying to invade the pitch.

“As the game started we became increasingly aware of the fans screaming. We were trying to concentrate on taking pictures of the game but it became more obvious that there was something going badly wrong in the crowd.

“I remember shouting to some St John Ambulance people who were sitting on a bench along the wall of the front of the North Stand telling them that people needed help. Eventually they went to help them.

“We thought it was just crowd congestion, we didn’t realise how serious it was until the players had gone off the pitch.

“We could see by the faces up against the fence that it was getting to be serious but we never thought anyone would die. We took pictures because that’s our job, we took pictures because that’s what was happening around us.

“There was nothing we could do to help and there are things that are clear in my mind as if they happened yesterday.

“When people started using advertising hoardings for stretchers we knew things were really bad.

“It was the fans and the bobbies on the ground that tried to take charge of the situation.

“I remember a policeman working on a fan on the pitch trying to bring him round then he suddenly took off his police tunic and placed it over the lad’s head.

“That was when it hit home. I remember thinking, God, somebody has died here.

“There were no public announcements over the tannoy. They thought it was a pitch invasion. The Forest fans couldn’t really tell what was going on. They were shouting to get the game going and had just seen a lad die on the pitch. I remember screaming something at them saying that people were dying.

“After that it was just pandemonium, bodies being carried everywhere and fans running around.

“I remember bumping into the chairman Bert McGee when it was all at its height and he said: “I never thought anything like this could happen at Hillsborough.”

“Bert was never the same after that day, I don’t think he ever got over it.”

Later on we knew people had died and I saw the club doctor Bill Purcell in the ground and asked him how bad it was. He said that there were 30 dead at that time.

“It was just unbelievable. People don’t die at football matches.”

It’s not just the sights from the Hillsborough Disaster that will stay with Steve.

“I remember being in the ground at around 4.45 after it had all finished. The stadium was empty and strangely silent,” said Steve.

“You wondered whether you had actually seen all that happen. The silence was incredible.”

Steve and the rest of the Star’s staff were called in to work that night and the following day to produce a special edition on the Sunday.

“When I came out of the office at 2am a car stopped and a family from Liverpool asked me how to get to the Northern General Hospital. All their grief and anguish was coming to Sheffield.”

Steve later had counselling to help him cope with the trauma but won’t ever forget what he saw.

“Every time I walk past that end of the ground, 
even now I think of that day and what happened. You don’t ever forget things like that.”