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Hillsborough sisters 'beautiful'
The parents of two teenage sisters who both died in the Hillsborough disaster have paid tribute to them as "bright, beautiful and innocent" young women.
In evidence to an inquest into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans, Trevor Hicks and his former wife Jenni recalled how 19-year-old Sarah Hicks and her sister Victoria, 15, died together "in horrific circumstances supporting the team they loved".
On what would have been Sarah's 44th birthday, Mr Hicks remembered her as a attractive, sociable person with a lovely disposition who took everything in her stride.
The long-standing Hillsborough campaigner, who split up with his wife two years after the disaster, said his younger daughter had exhibited a "strength of character and determination that was scary at times".
Addressing jurors five days before the 25th anniversary of the tragedy at an FA Cup semi-final on April 15 1989, Mr Hicks, who lived in Middlesex at the time of the disaster, said of his daughters: "They were very different maybe, but they were very much a pair.
"They had their arguments but they would defend each other to the death. Literally as it turned out.
"The loss of a child is one of the worst things that can happen to a loving parent. The loss of all your children is devastating. It's not that it is twice as bad, it's that you lose everything - your present, your future and then your purpose.
"The most difficult thing for me is the sheer waste of Sarah and Vicky's life, of their talent and ability, but also their care and compassion.
"They lived together, they died together in horrific circumstances supporting the team they loved, and they are buried together. Need I say more?"
After standing beside her former husband as he read out his statement, Ms Hicks told jurors that Sarah, who turned down a place at Oxford to study chemistry at Liverpool University, had always looked after her little sister.
Victoria, meanwhile, had her heart set on becoming a sports reporter, Ms Hicks added.
At the conclusion of her statement, Ms Hicks, who was at Hillsborough on the day of the tragedy, said of her daughters: "You were two bright, beautiful, innocent young women.
"I left you as you went into a football ground, and a few hours later you were dead."
Casting his mind back to an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest staged at Hillsborough a year before the disaster, Mr Hicks told the inquest: "We were all at the 1988 semi-final and went back in 1989 full of hope and aspiration for another trip to Wembley.
"Only Jenni and I made that trip to Wembley."
Attributing the breakdown of his marriage to the loss of his children, Mr Hicks added: "Jenni and I divorced in 1991, again as a result of Hillsborough."
On the fifth day of a series of "pen portrait" tributes at the inquest in Warrington, Cheshire, seven of the 10 victims remembered were in their teens.
Colin Ashcroft was described to the jury as a "well-rounded" guy who overcame difficulties to be as independent as he could.
The 19-year-old's mother, Janet Russell, said Colin, who lived in Warrington, had a very good sense of humour and a keen interest in politics.
Mrs Russell said she had been worried that her son planned to travel to Hillsborough, but decided not to stand in his way.
Before travelling to Sheffield, he had studied the lay-out of Hillsborough on his ticket and had decided to stand behind the goal at the Leppings Lane end of the ground, the inquest heard.
The mother of 14-year-old Lee Nicol, who died in hospital on April 17 1989, told jurors she took some consolation from the fact that her's son's wish to be an organ donor had helped others to live.
Patricia Donnelly said Lee, from Bootle, was fascinated by ancient civilisations, loved school and visiting museums, and had kept a donor card taped to the side of his computer.
Keen cricketer Simon Bell, 17, was said by his family to be "obsessed" with the sport.
In a statement, they said: "If he had had the chance he would probably have played professional cricket.
"It was his passion and we often think maybe something told him to make the best of his time."
The jury of seven women and four men heard that Graham Wright, 17, from Liverpool, served as an altar boy at his local church and was also adept at karate.
His older brother, Stephen, who was three when Graham was born, told the hearing: "From my earliest memory my brother was always with me. Every childhood memory is with him."
A-level student John McBrien, 18, from Holywell, Clywd, had received an unconditional offer to study economic history at Liverpool University, jurors heard.
His mother, Joan Hope, said in her statement to the coroner: "He was kind, generous and talented in so many ways.
"Even today the pain of losing John has not gone away. His death was completely devastating to our family - he was such an amazing son and brother and we all miss him deeply."
Hillsborough's oldest victim, Second World War veteran Gerard Baron, 67, was remembered by his son, Gordon, as a "damn good bloke" and an intelligent, hard-working, family man.
Relatives of Peter Thompson, who grew up in Widnes, said the 30-year-old married man had enjoyed a successful career as an engineer in Norway, Canada, the United States, the UK and Holland.
"As the eldest he was expected to be an example to his younger brothers, a role which seemed to come naturally to him," his brother, Denis, told the jury.
The mother of Derrick Godwin, who died aged 24, told how he fell in love with Liverpool FC after seeing a match against Oxford United.
Mr Godwin, from Lechlade, Gloucestershire, went to secondary school in Fairford and was very keen on languages, including French and Spanish.
He later went on to work in the accounts department of an insurance company in Swindon, and did not drink or smoke.
His mother, Margaret, told the jury panel: "He was a regular young man with his whole life in front of him.
"He was our only son. From the moment of his birth until his death he gave us untold joy. Every day we think of him and what might have been.
"I clearly remember that, on the morning of the semi-final, when he left home, his dad said to him 'I hope Liverpool win, Derrick' - to which he replied 'Oh, they will win, Dad.'
"Little did we realise they would be the last words we would hear him say."
The inquest was adjourned until Tuesday April 22.