Williams, whose 15-year-old son was crushed to death in the stadium disaster in 1989, succumbs to cancer
Anne Williams, who has died at the age of 62, suffered the loss of her beloved 15-year-old son Kevin in the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, then dedicated her life to challenging flawed medical evidence accepted at the inquest, and its verdict of accidental death.
A mother of three from Formby, who worked part time in a newsagents, she tracked down witnesses, obtained medical opinions about Kevin's death from some of England's most eminent doctors and levelled repeated legal attacks at the Hillsborough inquest.
With other families of the 96 people who died at Hillsborough, the worst stadium-related disaster in British history, she was refused a judicial review of the coroner's rulings in 1993, then had three applications to the attorney general turned down. In 2009 an application to the European court of human rights was rejected as out of time.
But finally, on 12 September last year, Williams lived to see the truth about the disaster fully established, with the report of the Hillsborough independent panel, chaired by James Jones, the bishop of Liverpool. It confirmed the facts she had known all along and refused to see denied.
The Sheffield coroner, Dr Stefan Popper, had ruled that all the victims had received irreversible crush injuries and were dead or could not have been revived by 3.15pm on the day of the disaster. The ruling meant that no evidence was heard about the chaotic and failed emergency response by South Yorkshire police and ambulance service to the suffering of so many people.
The panel's report, so many years later, established incontrovertibly that the medical evidence was wrong, that many of the victims were alive after 3.15pm and that, with a decent medical response, up to 58 might have been saved. Asked by the Guardian then if she would be seeking the painful truth about whether Kevin was one of the 58, Williams replied: "I have known for all these years that the inquest evidence was wrong and Kevin could have been saved, so I don't need to ask."
Yet after that 12 September vindication of her 23-year fight, with almost unbelievably cruel timing, Williams was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She always said she would never give up campaigning for justice and had told friends that, once that fight was won, as she always believed it would be, she had "promised herself a bit of a life again."
Williams had two other children, Michael and Sara, and three grandchildren, and knew how much the disaster affected the siblings and wider family. She went to live in a hospice before moving in with her brother, Danny, and his wife Sandra, for whose care she told friends she was very grateful.
She lived long enough to savour the day the inquest was quashed, in a damning judgment of the high court on 19 December, including the ruling that the 3.15pm cut-off was "not sustainable". Stricken by the cancer, pale and frail, Williams was determined to be at the Strand, where she arrived at the court in a wheelchair, accompanied by Danny.
Afterwards, speaking softly from the wheelchair on the street outside, Williams told the Guardian: "This is what I fought for. I was never going to give up."
She always rejected the inquest's 3.15pm evidence "cut-off" because she discovered that Kevin had died in the arms of a special police constable, Debra Martin, at 4pm. Martin had testified that Kevin had a pulse and that, just before he died, breathed a final word: "Mum".
Martin's statement, and that of another witness, off-duty police officer Derek Bruder, were later changed following visits from the West Midlands police, the investigating force into Hillsborough, to suggest there were no signs of life after 3.15pm. Martin has since claimed she was pressured to change her statement, Bruder officially complained that his evidence was not presented properly to the inquest.
Williams sought medical opinions about how Kevin died from some of the country's most senior experts, including Dr Iain West, consultant forensic pathologist at Guy's hospital. West contested the inquest finding that Kevin had died from traumatic asphyxia, arguing that he died from neck injuries and could have been treated and possibly saved. Yet Williams could find no court prepared to accept her appeal or that any of the evidence in that inquest was faulty.
It has finally been accepted, following the panel's report, that the portrayal of the Hillsborough families and campaigners as whingeing scousers was a misrepresentation almost as foul as the stories that South Yorkshire police peddled to shift the blame on to the supporters. Williams and the other families fought with remarkable implacability and unity that police campaign, the flawed inquest and other legal processes that left not one person or organisation accountable for 96 people dying at a football match.
It is now accepted that the families fought this battle, with no glimpse of vindication for so long, only out of love for their relatives. So, at the end of her life, Williams, with other Hillsborough families, was recognised not as part of some Liverpool rabble but as a shining example: an everyday person embodying the extraordinary power and depth of human love.
At Monday's memorial service to mark 24 years since the disaster, the Everton football club chairman, Bill Kenwright, said the two greatest words in the English language were "my mum". He paid tribute to the families' fight, and to the solidarity with which the people of Liverpool supported it, saying: "They picked on the wrong city – and they picked on the wrong mums."
Williams had defied medical advice to attend, and watched quietly from her wheelchair. Three days later, she died. She was proved right by the end of a life's mission, and greatly and widely admired. Like her son Kevin, for whose good name and memory she fought so indomitably, she will be deeply missed.