EMOTIONS ran high as the daughter of a St Helens man who died in the Hillsborough disaster paid tribute to the “wonderful father” she was never given the chance to know.
Leanne Hawley was aged just one when her dad, David Hawley, was among the 96 Liverpool supporters who died following the tragedy on April 15, 1989. He was aged 39.
Speaking at the fresh inquests into the disaster, held in Warrington, Leanne said her family has shared memories of David every day since his death.
She said: “I know my dad was a wonderful father and a much-loved husband, a kind and thoughtful uncle and a sincere friend.
“How I wish I could have known him for myself, how different our lives could have been. He was a great man.”
David met Leanne’s mum when they both stayed on the Isle of Man, despite the two of them attending the same school.
The court heard that David sold his Polaroid camera so that he could stay on the island for an extra week to “pluck up the courage” to ask Leanne’s mum out.
They went on to have three children – Claire, who was 16 when David died, John, who was 12 and Leanne who was just one.
David had attended the fateful football match with his nephew Stephen O’Neill. Neither of them returned home.
Leanne said: “My dad and Stephen’s loss has left a huge void in our family.”
Comments were also read out on behalf of Leanne’s older sister Claire.
She said: “My dad missed out on all the important days of my life – the birth of my daughter, my wedding day, my graduation.
“He would have made all those wondrous days so much more wonderful with his humour and his love.”
The new inquest into Britain's worst sporting disaster began last month and resumed last week following a break for the 25th anniversary of the tragedy.
They are taking place at Birchwood Park in Warrington and are being heard by Court of Appeal judge Lord Justice Goldring, who has been made an assistant coroner for the purpose.
The original accidental deaths verdicts in 1991 were quashed in the High Court in 2012 after a long campaign by the Hillsborough families.
Pen portraits of all 96 of those who lost their lives are being delivered to the court. They are expected to conclude on April 29, when the inquests will break until May 20.