The widow of one of the 96 people who died in the Hillsborough disaster has told the jury at the inquests examining the tragedy that her husband "was not a hooligan but a hard-working family man who just happened to love football".

Kathleen Thompson had to stop a number of times to compose herself and wipe away tears as she read a statement about husband, Patrick Thompson, who was one of the Liverpool fans who died at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough Stadium in April 1989.

Mrs Thompson told the 11 jurors: "Even now my children love their dad so much and it gets harder for them. They're adults now and all they want is justice for their dad.

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"Please listen to the evidence and let my children know that their dad was not a hooligan but a hard-working family man who just happened to love football."

Her emotional statement was one of the first "pen portraits" of the 96 people who died to be read at the hearing in Warrington, Cheshire.

The coroner, Lord Justice Goldring, has ruled that these biographies should form the first section of evidence at the inquests, which could last up to a year.

As family member after family member came to the witness box to recount their memories of their loved ones, a number of the 250 people in the purpose-built courtroom were in tears.

Mrs Thompson was supported in the witness box by two of her five children as she remembered the British Rail guard who was 35 when he died. She said that what "hurts the most" is that her children have grown up with limited memories of their father or, in the case of the three youngest, no memories at all.

The statements made in the court by the families yesterday are the first of dozens the jury of seven women and four men will hear over the coming weeks.

The process of presenting the so-called pen portraits is due to take until the end of the month, with the inquest not sitting during the week of the 25th anniversary of the catastrophic events.

The coroner adjourned the inquests until Monday when the families' pen portraits of those who died will continue.