David William Birtle

David William Birtle

Age: 22

David Birtle from Staffordshire, remembered at the inquests as a 'wonderful big brother', moved to Liverpool for a while because of his affinity for LFC, the city and its people. David drove to Hillsborough on his own on April 15, 1989. His grandad had bought him the car and his mother, Jennifer, said he loved the freedom it gave him.

She said: "David was loved deeply by all his family and is missed every single day by us all. David did not get the chance to have a family, but we know that he would have been a wonderful father."

Portrait by his mother Jennifer Birtle

David William Birtle was born on May 6, 1966. I decided to have a home birth, so David was born at my parents' home in West Bromwich. Six months later we bought a house in Cannock, Staffordshire.

When David was eight months old, he had gastroenteritis and almost died. The only way he could get any sleep was to warm against my chest. It was a very worrying time, but he recovered and began to walk shortly after. Once he could run, there was always a football attached to his foot.

Three years later, David's brother, Jonathan, was born. They were very different in temperament - David was quiet, Jonathan boisterous. They squabbled most of the time, as brothers do. David was a happy little boy who never walked and always ran everywhere.

Trevor Francis was his hero at that time. He joined the cubs and went away to camp with them. When he got home, he slept the whole day, he was so exhausted.

He spent lots of weekends with his grandma and grandad, whom he loved very much, and they adored him. It broke their hearts when he was killed.

When David was seven and Jonathan four years old, their father remarried and moved to Birmingham. He would come and take them swimming. We remained at the family home until three years later when I met and married my husband.

We then moved to a village in Staffordshire and David attended Endon High School and that was when we decided to have David and Jonathan's name changed to Birtle, with their father's agreement. Divorce wasn't so commonplace in the 70s, so it made life easier to have the same name.

David developed a love of music as he grew up. The Jam and Echo and the Bunnymen featured heavily. He also developed a liking for opera later. He enjoyed going to music festivals, especially Glastonbury. When he got home, I had to hose his clothes down before they could go in the washing machine.

Three weeks before David's 13th birthday, and exactly 10 years before he was killed, I had a baby, Adam. Sadly, Adam was born with spina bifida and only lived 12 days.

Five years later, I had Daniel, and David was a wonderful big brother. Some 18-year-olds would have been embarrassed, but not David. He loved Daniel a great deal.

Once he took him on a double decker bus and sat upstairs at the front, knowing that a bridge was coming up. Daniel thought it was going to come through the window, which David found very funny. Daniel was only four when David was killed. He has missed out by not having David in his life. Daniel is very much like him in many ways.

When David was 16, my husband was made redundant and went to work in Oman. David spent holidays there and enjoyed the different culture and climate. He would lie by the pool with a towel over his face, ear phones plugged in, so all you could see was a towel bobbing up and down, enjoying calling a waiter over for food.

When my husband had been there a year, I joined him, spending my time between Oman and the UK. David's grandparents stayed at our home part-time. Not an ideal situation, but that was how it was.

David wasn't very academic and left school not really knowing what he wanted to do.

He became an ardent fan of Liverpool Football Club. Sadly, that decision was to cost him his life. He moved to Liverpool for a time, because he said he loved the people and the place.

David liked to look smart. His hair turned curly when he was 14, so he was constantly trying to straighten it. He grew a small beard, which really suited him.

David wasn't perfect. None of us are. But he was just getting his life together. He had just gained his HGV licence and had started a new job.

His grandad had given him his car and he loved the freedom it gave him. At Hillsborough, someone broke into that car and stole his car radio. He had left his scarf in the car, so that person knew he was a Liverpool fan and the reason why his car was still there.

On April 15, 1989, I was in Oman. At 3.10pm UK time, 6.10pm Omani time, I tried to get the football on the World Service, something I had never done before, not being a football fan. It being such an odd thing for me to do, my husband was more than a little surprised. I just had a strange feeling, so I rang my dad.

He asked me if Brian was with me, which made me realise that there was something terribly wrong. My dad had convinced himself that David would be helping, but I knew that David would have moved heaven and earth to call me just as he had done when he was caught up in the Heysel disaster.

My poor dad finally called me at 4.40am Omani time with the devastating news that three weeks short of his 23rd birthday, our son, and his grandson, was gone forever. No father should have to give his daughter that news.

Within two hours, we were sat at Seeb airport waiting to board the plane home, a bewildered little boy beside us. I had to listen to two expats reading the local paper and saying, 'Oh, the police say it was hooligans', as if that was okay then, that it was their own fault.

I spent the whole flight trying to find a way of explaining all this to Daniel. In the end, I told him David wouldn't be at grandma's, because he had gone to live in the clouds with the Care Bears.

When we finally reached my parents' home, Jonathan was like a statue, he was freezing cold. He had gone to look for David when he heard the news on the radio. He had finally met up with his father, who had found David.

I cannot imagine what it must have been like for them. None of us will ever be the same again. We have all changed, and not for the better, I am afraid.

David's ashes are in the goalmouth at Anfield, my ex-husband's choice of resting place. I go to Anfield once a year on David's birthday. David's father, until his illness, was very involved with the Hillsborough movement. Different people cope and grieve in different ways, which doesn't mean that one way is better than the other.

David was loved deeply by all his family and is missed every single day by us all. We were robbed of a son, brother, grandson and now uncle. David did not get the chance to have a family, but we know that he would have been a wonderful father.

I find not being able to say his name or write it in a birthday card so sad.

I have been spared the worst of what happened that day. I am grateful for that, but I am reminded that I was out of the country when David died. I have asked myself a million times, if only I had been at home, but I know David would have still gone to Hillsborough that day, and he was where he was happiest, watching his beloved Liverpool.

David was our first child and first grandchild and will always be special. Therefore, as a family, we are owed an explanation sooner rather than later as to how and why David died that day.

You'll Never Walk Alone

Rest in Peace