‘I Almost Died In The Hillsborough Disaster – But I Can’t Remember A Thing’

Hillsborough survivor Mark Aspden awoke from coma and has blocked all memory of the tragedy from his mind.
Mark Aspden with the Liverpool shirt he was wearing at Hillsborough
Mark Aspden with the Liverpool shirt he was wearing at Hillsborough
Mark Aspden

“I don’t remember a single thing about that day,” says Mark Aspden, running his fingers down the stitching of the Liverpool shirt he was wearing on April 15, 1989. “Everything has been blanked out of my memory.”

A huge tear down the middle of the garment – made when doctors cut it from his body to save his life – was repaired by his aunt, after he miraculously recovered from the coma in which he had been read the last rites.

Caught in the fatal crush in the Leppings Lane terrace as a teenager, Mark later found out the compression of his chest had cut off the blood supply to his brain, plunging him into unconsciousness. He has been terrified of unleashing any repressed memories of the Hillsborough tragedy ever since.

The 50-year-old, who lives in Preston, tells HuffPost UK he switches off the TV or turns the page if he spots anything about the disaster that claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans – not out of disrespect to the victims, but to protect himself.

“What I do know is I was one of the lucky people who got attended to and sent to hospital,” he says. “I was fortunate enough to survive and return home when others were not.”

The Hillsborough shirt that was cut off Mark Aspden by doctors as they battled to save his life. His aunt later stitched it back together.
The Hillsborough shirt that was cut off Mark Aspden by doctors as they battled to save his life. His aunt later stitched it back together.
Mark Aspden

Mark was 19 when he attended the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest with his friend Martin. A Reds fan since he was a young child, Mark loved going to matches. In 1988 – the year before Hillsborough – he bought his first season ticket and has held one ever since.

“I can vaguely remember being at the train station that morning and I have a very hazy memory of walking down a path and using a toilet on my way to the stadium,” the dad-of-three says.

“But after that, I can’t remember a thing. I can’t remember being at the match or anything about what happened.

“The next thing I remember was waking up in hospital out of the coma on the Monday morning.”

Mark Aspden when he was younger
Mark Aspden when he was younger
Mark Aspden

Mark was only been able to piece together the series of events from what Martin and his family have told him about the day of the disaster.

“My friend told me we had been together in the stadium and were behind the goal at the Leppings Lane end,” he says.

“He said I went to the toilets at the grounds and we got split up. He could see me but could not reach to touch me.”

Used to being separated at busy games, the pair always agreed a pre-arranged spot to meet at after the final whistle.

After seeing the tragic scenes unfolding as the result of the crush, Martin was distraught when Mark didn’t turn up at their meeting point and sat outside the ground in tears.

“There were no mobile phones in those days,” Mark says. “Martin was so upset and panic-stricken by everything going on that when he tried to call home to tell his mum he was okay, he couldn’t even remember his own telephone number.”

Police took Martin to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, but there was no sign of Mark. Then they took him to Northern General Hospital where Martin discovered his friend was in a coma.

Meanwhile, Mark’s devastated family – who knew he had been at the match – were desperately calling the helpline number for relatives.

His uncle eventually got through, found out where Mark was and drove his mum Christine straight to the hospital.

“I cannot comprehend what my mum must have gone through on that two-hour journey from Preston to Sheffield, not knowing if she’d find me alive or dead,” says Mark.

“Now I have children of my own, it really hits home how terrible that must have been for her.”

Mark Aspden with a framed Liverpool shirt.
Mark Aspden with a framed Liverpool shirt.
Mark Aspden

Mark recalls waking from his coma and not knowing where he was, or what had happened.

In the coming days, he was visited by then-Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and the rest of the team, who gave him a signed shirt.

Miraculously, although it took him weeks to recover, Mark didn’t suffer any lasting physical damage. And he believes the only reason he has been spared the mental anguish is because his brain deliberately wiped out all memory of that day.

He later realised he must have been one of the first patients plucked from the crush and taken to hospital, as he has seen hospital documentation showing all Hillsborough patients were given a number as they arrived – his was seven.

“I honestly believe the fortunate thing for me was not being able to remember anything as it made it easier for me to cope with,” Mark says.

“It was different for my friend Martin. The trauma of Hillsborough affected him more mentally, as he was conscious of what happened and lived it.

“It continues to affect and haunt him today. Martin didn’t go on the football for a long time after Hillsborough.”

Mark made a conscious decision not to watch or read any coverage of anything related to the Hillsborough court proceedings.

“I have chosen not to pay any attention to media coverage of Hillsborough and have tried to shield myself from it all,” he tells HuffPost UK.

“I think things would have been very different if I did remember and it would have impacted me and had a mental effect on me.

“I did not read anything about the trial or follow it, but I am fully behind the families who lost people and support their fight for justice. I can fully understand why they want answers and I hope they get justice and peace.”

He added: “Even though I was injured, I was one of the lucky ones. I could easily have been one of the victims and I think about that a lot. I can only imagine what the families who lost people in the tragedy must have gone through all these years.

“I am lucky as not only have I survived, my brain has blocked everything out. As a result, I have been able to go on football games ever since, as I can’t remember what happened.

“Every day, I feel grateful for still being here – but I am always thinking about the pain and suffering that the families and the fans have been through.”


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