Their son was killed on the Hillsborough terraces aged 27 – the same number of years his Sheffield parents have had to fight to get the truth about his death.
Peter and Pat Joynes – whose son Nick was among those who died in the 1989 disaster – have spoken to The Star about how their long fight for justice has marked their lives for three decades.
The couple, who are both originally from Sheffield and have played key roles in campaigning for justice as part of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said they felt ‘elated’ at this week’s inquest verdict that their son was unlawfully killed and the fans were not to blame.
Peter, a Sheffield Wednesday supporter, said he has never been back to Hillsborough following his son’s death and can’t even watch Owls games on television because of it brings back ‘too many memories’.
The couple, who will mark their 60th wedding anniversary this year, had already been struck by terrible tragedy prior to Hillsborough when one of Nick’s older brothers, Mark, died in 1983 in South Africa from injuries in a traffic accident that were not properly diagnosed.
The oldest two of their four children were born in Sheffield before the couple moved to Merseyside in their 20s after Peter was offered a new job.
Peter, who is now 82 and originally from Ecclesall, and wife Pat, 79, from Darnall, said their son Nick was a keen footballer, playing for Bootle Boys and having trials for Liverpool, before working as an engineer.
Nick was married to wife Gill just six months before his death and were a ‘beautiful couple with everything to live for’.
Nick was a keen Liverpool fan and went to the 1989 FA Cup semi-final with a group of friends.
Pat, who was vice-chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group for around 20 years, said she had last seen her son the day before the match when he had been in a ‘very optimistic’ mood.
She said she had been working at Marks and Spencer in Liverpool city centre on the day of the disaster when staff were told what had happened. She rang Peter and the couple went home to see if they could get more news.
Peter said they got a phone call suggesting everyone from the minibus Nick had gone in was accounted for.
“I said, ‘Let’s make a meal and I will go and get a bottle of wine’. When I came back the story had changed – Nick was missing from the coach. The bottle of wine was never opened.”
He said the pair then drove to Sheffield with Nick’s father-in-law, stopping at every telephone box on the roadside to phone home to see if there was any news.
They then went around Sheffield’s hospitals to try and find Nick but were eventually told to go to the stadium gym where the bodies of the dead were being kept.
Peter said: “It was bedlam. I heard screaming, crying from the mothers and relatives of people who had been killed.”
He said the couple were led to a side room where they were informed Nick was among the dead.
Peter said he couldn’t bring himself to identify his son’s body, while Pat said she felt she had to see him to confirm the appalling news was true.
She said: “I just wanted to see Nick.
“We knew there was nothing we could do. I just wanted to give him a hug and kiss him.”
Peter and Pat attended the two-year inquest process for two to three days each week, which included the screening of distressing footage of Nick ‘gasping for breath’ as he was crushed on the terraces.
Peter said the jury was also shown footage of ambulance workers walking past the pen Nick was in as the crush was developing and failing to take action to help those in distress in the crowd.
Pat said the inquest process had taken its toll on the couple.
“It has been very hard listening to some of the evidence. It was very heartrending – you think to yourself, ‘I can’t take anymore.’ But we owed it to the 96 to find out the truth and give them justice.”
Peter said he wanted to thank the people of Sheffield who had opened their homes to distraught Liverpool fans in the immediate aftermath of the disaster to allow them to phone home and let their loved ones know they were alive.
Peter said he does not believe justice has been fully served yet for the 96 people who lost their lives.
He said: “I do think there should be criminal proceedings against certain people, especially people who told lies.
“If they had told the truth I would have accepted that it was a tragedy and an accident of some kind.
“But they didn’t from the first hour.
“There is still time to go. But since the verdicts we can look back at all the work we have done for 27 years and say it has been worthwhile. The truth will out and it has finally come out.”
Pat said: “It has been a very hard fight all these years to get to the truth. How can 96 people be crushed to death at a football match?
“We owed it to them to find out exactly what happened that day. Quite frankly, it has been a nightmare.”
She added: “I think justice has been done to a degree. But it has taken so much out of the families.
“From my point of view, we want it to be over now, put to bed and let the 96 rest in peace. Nick will be with me forever. I will think about him every day until the day I die.”