Inger Shah

Inger Shah

Age: 38

Mother of two Inger Shah was born in Denmark and raised in a small town outside Copenhagen, before first visiting England in 1968 to work as an au pair. She arrived as a Liverpool fan, after watching the club on television in her home country. Inger went to Hillsborough with her son Daniel, Marian McCabe - who also died at the disaster - and other friends.

Daughter Becky described a "loving, caring, devoted and loyal mother, as well as a warm-hearted, kind, generous, funny, brave and intelligent human being."

Portrait by her daughter Becky Shah

My mum was the youngest of three sisters and was born in 1950. Her sister, Ellen, was born in 1947 and her other sister, Kirsten, was born in 1949. Their mother was a nurse and their father was an electrician who worked for the national electricity company. They both sometimes had to work nights.

My aunt Ellen says they were an ordinary family, like most Danish families at that time. They lived in a small fishing town some 50 miles away from the capital, Copenhagen.

Ellen says that during their childhood their grandmother invited the whole of their family for dinner once or twice a year. We girls enjoyed that very much.

People always brought us chocolate and fruit and our grandmother always gave us money for doing the washing up. Every summer we went on holiday with her to a summer house for one or two weeks. She died in 1968, which of course was a hard loss to all of us.

Ellen says that my mum had many friends during her childhood and as a teenager. I remember her talking about her school days and she seemed to enjoy them and have a lot of fun.

She passed all of her exams at 16 years old and was very proud that she never failed any test. She even passed her driving test first time. My mum could have easily attended university as she had a sharp intellect and broad general knowledge.

In 1968, my mum came to London to work as an au pair, which Ellen says she was very happy about. She loved English pop music and football, as well as other aspects of the culture. It was the swinging 60s and she was determined to have fun.

She returned to Denmark after a year and undertook business school education for one year, but she missed England and came back here to improve her English language and study English history whilst working in an office.

Ellen says that it was very important to speak and understand the English language and know about English history, especially since she was living here.

I know she trained as a psychiatric nurse in London around this time, but gave it up after becoming disillusioned with it. My mum always knew what to do if we'd hurt ourselves and she always made us feel safe. There is a strong history of nursing amongst the females of the family.

In 1970 she met my father, and later husband, Nutan. She became pregnant in 1971 and returned to Denmark to give birth, where I was born in March 1972. My father was still living in London but saw my mum and I right after the birth and visited a few times.

Afterwards, her parents convinced her to complete her business school education, which she passed after a year, whilst she and her parents looked after me.

As soon as she finished her studies in 1975, the two of us returned to London, where my mum married my dad and lived in his house in north west London. My brother, Daniel, was born in November that year.

In 1976, all of us went to India and stayed with my dad and his family. The stay lasted for 18 months, longer than had been planned, and we saw a lot of the country in that time.

It was an experience for my mum, who always had an interest in other cultures, but it was also hard for her as she became very unwell at one point with malaria and we witnessed political violence due to the unstable situation in the country at that time.

We returned to London in around 1978. Shortly afterwards, we moved to Cambridgeshire for somewhere quieter to live, but the family never settled there so we returned to London after a year.

After this my mum worked intermittently for a few months at a time in hospitals as a secretary. She started working full-time at the Royal Free Hospital in Belsize Park in London in around 1987. She was very happy and popular there and had made lots of friends.

But things were also difficult for my mum. Her mother, and our grandmother, died in August 1987 of leukemia and Ellen says this was very hard for her. I remember the night our grandmother died and just how upset she was. She went to Denmark for the funeral.

Her marriage to my father had been a very unhappy one and, in the summer of 1988, they divorced. After the divorce, my mum was a much happier person but things were financially difficult. Even so, she managed to see her family in Denmark.

My mum was still working at the Royal Free Hospital when she died. It was a shocking blow to all of her colleagues, many of whom attended her funeral.

My mum was very loving and caring and she was the best mum anyone could hope for and my brother and I were very close to her. We miss her so badly to this day and always will. She always put us first, even though she struggled at times as she was looking after us by herself for the most part.

She tried very hard to make up for the lack of love and time from my dad and we knew her so much better than him. She made sure we were in touch with that part of our background and would tell us stories from when she was growing up in Denmark.

We were lucky enough to have our mum around a lot, especially when we were younger. She was always busy either looking after us or the house, which was always so clean and tidy.

Meal times were important to us. We always sat and ate together as a family and I have very fond memories of this. She was a very good cook, although she didn't really enjoy it.

When we had birthdays, she would organise parties for us and our friends, cooked food, baked cakes and tried very hard to make sure a good time was had by all.

She always liked to talk to us about our day and find out what we had done at school, and this became increasingly important to me as a teenager. We had our disagreements and arguments, as all teenagers and parents do, but I viewed her as a friend, a very special friend, that could never be replaced.

I particularly remember Christmas. I loved spending it together with my mum and brother and we would either be at home in London or together with the family in Denmark.

Regardless of where we celebrated, Christmas was always traditional Danish in flavour, the decorations and the food we ate. We all used to enjoy decorating the house and going shopping for Christmas. It was cosy and exciting.

I am especially glad the last Christmas we had together was spent in Denmark, 1988, as this was the last time my family saw her alive. I have good memories of that trip.

We spent a lovely Christmas Eve, which is the day we celebrate in Denmark, together with the whole family. My mum was very happy and we had a great time that New Year's Eve, as my aunt and uncle had a small party and they were dancing away to old records.

My mum was very family oriented and keeping in touch with all of her family and friends in Denmark was very important to her. She, my brother and I would often visit Denmark for Christmas and/or the summer holidays. Sometimes my father joined.

Our family from Denmark also visited us in London and my mum would arrange stays in Wales, the Lake District, Scotland and many other places she found beautiful. Ellen says she felt responsible for us having a good time.

My mum was considerate and thought a lot about what other people would like and how they would be feeling. She was very friendly, upbeat, fun-loving and made friends wherever she went - Denmark, England, India, Liverpool.

She was cheerful and had a good sense of humour and always had a funny story to tell. My mum and I could laugh for hours. I miss that so very much. 

It was one of the things I loved about going to football, we always had fun, win or lose, rain or shine. Going to football after Hillsborough felt lonely, bleak and hollow without my mum there.

My mum also had a serious side. She was intelligent and very interested in politics and current and world affairs. Both Ellen and I remember how very much she liked to debate and exchange points of view - I came off pretty badly most of the time.

She had a strong sense of fairness and believed in social justice and human rights. My mum always strongly believed in helping those less fortunate and I remember she was very distressed by the Ethiopian famine.

Although she was very small - 5ft 2in, six stones and size two shoes - she was brave and could be outspoken. She would always stand up for herself and her children.

When I was about eight or nine she took on racist bullies that were threatening me when we lived in Cambridgeshire. The bullies were sometimes violent to me. On one occasion she even confronted a group of five or six older youths by herself who had threatened to burn me.

My mum was also very honest with everyone and I knew exactly when I'd upset her or gone too far.

My mum enjoyed being out in the fresh air and liked nature and wildlife. When we were smaller, she would often take us to the park or the woods to feed the ducks or the deer, or go sledging if it had been snowing. Autumn was her favourite season. She loved the different colours - green, yellow, amber, red, brown.

As my mum was interested in history, we would visit historic sites on day trips and while on holiday as well as seeing the countryside.

Ellen says that my mum relaxed by doing embroidery. She and her family very much liked sewing and we had many things around the house that had been embroidered either by my mum or one of the family. These possessions were very important to her.

My mum loved reading and had a large book collection. She liked classic English writers such as Charles Dickens and had his entire collection. Other authors I remember her being fond of were Graham Greene, John Steinbeck and George Orwell.

She also liked less serious books such as Catch 22 and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. She very much encouraged us to read throughout our childhood and would always read to us when we were younger.

My mum was a huge music fan and had a big record collection. She loved The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in particular. John Lennon was her favourite Beatle and she was very upset when he died. I know she went to see a Rolling Stones gig before I was born and really wanted to see The Beatles but, sadly, never got the opportunity.

She also liked some modern music (which both my brother and I are into). We would often listen to music together, whether it was her records from the 1960s or 1970s or my brother's or mine from the 1980s. I have fond memories of her happily singing and dancing as she was getting on with the housework or cooking.

My mum enjoyed watching films and TV. Films I can remember her liking were The Killing Fields, Missing and she liked horrors too, such as The Omen and Alfred Hitchcock stories.

She would always watch films with us when we were little such as The Fox and the Hound and ET - and enjoy them. We would all watch TV together and I remember us all enjoying 'Mr Men', 'The Magic Roundabout', 'Scooby Doo' and 'Morph'.

She would make us hot chocolate in the winter and gave us biscuits while we watched. My mum loved to watch comedy, dramas, documentaries and wildlife programmes.

We would always watch football on TV together - and this is how we became supporters of Liverpool FC. My mum said Danish TV only showed two English teams in the 60s - Leeds United and Liverpool. She liked Liverpool, as this is where The Beatles were from.

And later, when we would watch 'Match of the Day' in England, we would always take a special interest in how Liverpool had done. I particularly remember the European Cup final in 1984 in Rome against AS Roma in their own stadium.

We video recorded the match, which was watched many times. We were ecstatic when Alan Kennedy scored the winning goal in the penalty shootout.

The following year, we excitedly sat in front of the TV again to watch the Reds play Juventus at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels. We were all very distressed and upset to see those events unfold and learn of the tragic loss of 39 lives.

My mum said we would go to matches the following season to support Liverpool as it was now the club really needed it. Our first match was at QPR away in 1985. We lost 2-1, but we were hooked.

Shortly afterwards, we went on our first ever visit to Anfield and I will never forget how excited we were and we won 4-1 against West Bromwich Albion. After two seasons, we became season ticket holders for the Kop at Anfield and were attending some 40-plus games a season, loyally following the Reds both home and away.

For the first two seasons it was usually just the three of us, and sometimes our Liverpool-supporting friend from down the road, David Lipworth, (who was also at Hillsborough), who would travel to matches with us.

By the 1987-88 season, the first season we were season ticket holders, we had made many friends, Marian McCabe, Phil Goodman, Gary Oyitch, John King, Steve Oates and Boots (most were at Hillsborough).

We used to travel to matches with the London and Essex Reds and meet up with the others from the north at either the rail station or stadium. By the time the Hillsborough disaster happened, we had formed strong bonds and close friendships.

What happened to our friends, Marian and those who were injured, has had a profound impact on my brother and me and continues to do so to this day.

My memories of the lead-up to the 1989 FA Cup semi-final, which was to be played at Hillsborough again, are crystal clear. In particular, the Saturday before the disaster, April 8. Liverpool were at home to Sheffield Wednesday, the team from Hillsborough.

It was an early kick-off due to the Grand National taking place later that afternoon at Aintree. My mum attended the match but, unusually, neither my brother nor I did. Liverpool won 5-1 and my mum's horse, which she had picked out at a work sweepstake, won.

My mum watched the National with friends in Liverpool, and Daniel and I watched it at home, shouting at the TV for her horse to win. She was so happy when she returned. I remember her standing in the lounge with a beaming smile on her face saying, 'At long last I think my luck is changing'.

One week later, my mum, my brother, Daniel (13 years old), Marian McCabe, Phil Goodman, Gary Oyitch, Steve Oates and Boots would be standing in pen three of the Leppings Lane terrace at Hillsborough to watch their beloved Liverpool take on Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-final.

We were all at Hillsborough for the same fixture the year before, the 1988 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. I stood in exactly the same spot as my mum and Marian did in both 1988 and 1989. Had I been there in 1989, it is very likely I would have stood with my mum, Marian, Steve, Gary and Boots.

To this day, I have felt extremely guilty about both their deaths, as well as the horror of what my brother and friends had to go through. I have been diagnosed as having both post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor's guilt as a result of watching the disaster unfold live on TV. I watched the coverage from start to finish.

Both my mum and I tried very hard to get me a ticket for Hillsborough. I was so upset that I would have to miss it. My season ticket ended in the wrong number, but my mum's and my brother's both had the correct numbers so they were allocated tickets.

I was very angry at the time and ripped up my spare voucher needed for the ticket allocation. My mum patiently picked up all the pieces and carefully Sellotaped it back together and said she would send it in between hers and my brother's and hope LFC did not notice it had the wrong number.

They did notice and the envelope was returned with two tickets for Hillsborough and my Sellotaped spare voucher. I'll never forget how difficult tickets were to come by for this fixture.

I remember the Friday night before Hillsborough, the three of us were at home. The atmosphere was quite tense as my mum and I had argued the night before. We never made up, and that makes her death harder for me to cope with; but I also know it is typical of teenagers and parents to argue like this.

Despite this, my mum tried very hard to persuade me to come on the train to Sheffield with them the following morning, as she said she was sure someone would have a spare ticket.

But like my mum, I am very stubborn and was upset I had not been allocated a ticket. I had already decided to go out with friends on the Saturday night, one of whom had her birthday on the 15th. The memory of her begging me to go and knowing what happened to her subsequently haunts me to this day.

The effect of my mum's loss on our family has been both immense and profound. It has been devastating and heartbreaking. Ellen says that when my mum died, life tumbled for us all.

Both my brother and I had to be taken into care by social services and became wards of court as a result of losing our only parent while under the age of 18.

My brother has found things very difficult, to be deprived of his only parent at such a young age and he was traumatised on his return from Hillsborough. He has hardly attended football matches since.

I have also found the death of my only parent very hard to cope with. I feel it placed enormous burdens upon shoulders that were too young to carry them.

In particular, the maternal sense of responsibility I felt towards my little brother as well as the continuing need to defend my mother's good name for a quarter of a century has been overwhelming.

I would like to end this statement by saying that my mum was neither a drunken hooligan nor a bad mother. On the contrary, this statement has shown her to be a loving, caring, devoted and loyal mother, as well as a warm-hearted, kind, generous, funny, brave and intelligent human being, one who is still so badly missed and much loved and always will be.


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