People lined the streets of Waterloo to pay their respects to Dave Church as the courageous Hillsborough dad and justice campaigner was laid to rest.
Mr Church, who worked for years to uncover the truth about what happened to his son Gary, 19, and 95 other Liverpool supporters unlawfully killed on April 15th 1989, died last week after a long battle with cancer.
Mourners at Christ Church in Waterloo included many Hillsborough families, survivors and campaigners, who heard tributes to the 76-year-old dad-of-four, grandfather of nine and great-grandfather of eight who was a founding member of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, alongside wife Maureen who died in 1999.
Among the tributes was a letter read out by the former Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, who chaired the Hillsborough Independent Panel and earlier this month published a report into the experiences of Hillsborough families since 1989, calling for an end to the “burning injustice” faced by those hit by public tragedy.
Bishop James wrote: “I had the utmost respect for Dave, whom he got to know well while chairing the Hillsborough Independent Panel and the Forum.
“Dave was tireless to the end in seeking justice for Gary and the 96.
“He showed great courage in challenging people in authority and was always able to back up his claims with meticulously researched information.
“The Kingdom of God is built on justice and is the home for all who not only talk about justice but who work for it with their whole heart.
“Dave was such a person and will find himself at home in the Kingdom of Justice and Mercy.
“He would often challenge me but with every challenge my respect and admiration grew.
“I give thanks this day for his faithful witnessing to the truth.
“God bless Gary and Dave and Maureen and all their family”.
Family friend Steve Kelly, who lost his brother Michael (38) at Hillsborough, paid tribute to Mr Church’s determination to secure justice for the 96 and his steadfast support for survivors.
He said: “My late sister Joan had such great admiration for Dave and Maureen. She herself was a hardened campaigner and I often had disagreements about how hard she pushed and was surprised as I never knew my sister was this scrapper within.
“Yet years later at inquest hearings and family forums, I would watch Dave and the penny dropped where she had learned her craft, she learned it from a very proud and strong individual who never knew the word defeat.
“I liked the calm, quiet way Dave set about his business.
“He would plan and research and would be able to put people on the spot in a sentence, because he knew what he was talking about.
“He knew they were unable to provide him with what he wanted and that was something very simple: it was the truth.
“Dave wanted no more than that simple thing, yet he was denied it for so many years but never gave in to those who put obstacles in his way.
“How do you overcome such obstacles? You become a battering ram and Dave certainly did that, no matter the toll it took upon himself.
“I would never have liked a roasting off Dave and, if I did say anything, I would look over to him and see a slight grin on the corner of his mouth and half closed eyes as a sign of approval.
“Dave would also take time to talk and give advice, I have spoken to many survivors from Hillsborough and know they have always had nothing but admiration for Dave as he remembered the people who were there for Gary and the 95 other victims.
“There are many people here today who benefitted from Dave’s quiet talks and messages of reassurance. He never let anyone down.
“I urge everyone here today and those who have followed the Hillsborough story to keep your resolve, let’s win true accountability.
“Let’s do that for Dave and for the other family members and campaigners we have sadly lost.
“Dave’s memory deserves that commitment from you to ensure the waters are calmer, the waters are easier to wade, the waters are not troubled for others in the future.
“Dave, I thank you, we thank you. I am a better man, a stronger man for having known you.
“God Bless David Church.”