THERE were tears at the Hillsborough inquest this morning, Thursday, as heartfelt ‘pen portraits’ were read out describing some of the 96 lost loved ones.

The father of Warrington victim Ian ‘Ronnie’ Whelan was one of the first to speak at the hearing in Birchwood and said his son was not a ‘football hooligan’ and he had been defending his name for the past 25 years.

Father Wilf Whelan, from Padgate, said the 19-year-old left two red roses on his girlfriend Joanne’s door step before leaving for the FA Cup semi final in 1989 because he knew she would be getting ready for work and did not want to make her late.

Born at Warrington Hospital in 1970, Ian was the first of two children and Mr Whelan said both youngsters always looked out for each other.

The former St Oswalds RC Primary and St John RC High School student was nicknamed Ronnie by his friends after his Liverpool hero.

Mr Whelan added: “His friends would call on the phone and ask for Ronnie.

“At the beginning it was really confusing for his mum and I.

“He was constantly playing football in the back garden while commentating on himself...and he was a son that any family would have been proud of.”

Ian got his own season ticket at Liverpool in 1986 and was described as a ‘young man who was just beginning to get on his feet in life’ and a ‘typical teenager’ with interests in music, computers, football and drawing.

The jury heard Ian would often draw caricatures of footballers and send them to Anfield asking for players to sign them and send them back which most of the players did.

After leaving Priestley College, Ian worked at British Nuclear Fuels where he met his girlfriend.

Mr Whelan added: “One of his highlights was passing his driving test first time just after he had turned 18-years-old.

“His other love was music, especially U2, and Joanne told us he insisted on sitting near the largest speaker in the cinema when he took her to see the U2 film Rattle and Hum and would sing it to her most mornings on the way to work and on the way home again.”

He added Ian unexpectedly leaving red roses on his girlfriend’s door step was an example of his good nature.

Mr Whelan finished by saying: “He was not a football hooligan.

“He attended mass of his own free will every Sunday without fail.

“My family feel they have had to defend his good name over the past 25 years and I would like to thank the coroner for this opportunity to do so again.”

Each family of the 96 victims involved in the Hillsborough disaster will be given the opportunity to speak over the coming weeks. 

The hearing continues.