TRIBUTES have been paid to the '97th Hillsborough victim' who died while wracked with guilt for selling a ticket to a friend who died in the disaster.

Stephen Whittle, of Atherton, was hit by a train in February 2011 between Daisy Hill station in Westhoughton and Hag Fold Station in Atherton.

The inquest into his death at Bolton Coroner's Court heard the Liverpool fan never let his family know how deeply affected he had been by the disaster at Sheffield Wednesday's ground in April 1989.

The 50-year-old had to work on the day of the match and never forgave himself for selling his FA Cup semi-final seat to his pal who died in the crush.

Coroner Jennifer Leeming said at the time that Mr Whittle, who worked at the PPG glass fibre manufacturing plant in Hindley Green, Wigan, had died from multiple injuries consistent with being struck by a train.

She recorded a narrative verdict that he took his own life while the balance of his mind was disturbed.

"That awful tragic event that happened so long ago is still reaching out and touching people," she said at the time.

"Especially for a man who was so keen on football, it was a big part of his life and to have that awful event associated with such a pleasure must have been troubling as the years went on."

Mr Whittle's friend, who has never been identified, was one of the 96 supporters who lost their lives in the tragedy.

Each death was declared an unlawful killing on Tuesday by the Hillsborough inquest jury following two years of evidence.

Leigh MP and shadow home secretary Andy Burnham, who campaigned for justice with those caught up in the disaster, previously said: "The story of Stephen Whittle, of Atherton, is one of the saddest I have heard and shows that the human cost goes on and on."

On Wednesday fan group Liverpool Updates posted a tribute to Mr Whittle following the inquest: "Spare a thought for this man, Stephen Whittle, and his family today, the 97th Hillsborough Victim as he's known.

"He sold his ticket on that day to his mate who died in the crush.

"The other year he committed suicide throwing himself under a train.

"He left £61,000 to the Hillsborough memorial trust.

"Hopefully somewhere he now rests in peace too."

Commenting on the page, David Dunbabin said: "RIP Stephen, I have no doubt you will meet up with your friend who will tell you he bears you no malice and you can carry on your friendship in a better place. God bless you both."

Julie Griffin said: “Rest in peace Stephen, it was not your fault, no other fans fault, just 27 years of lies, hurt and pain.

“The only people at fault were the authorities in charge.

“You are reunited with your mate and all the other angels, spread your wings and fly free.

“You will never walk alone.”