The parents of two teenage sisters who died in the Hillsborough disaster have paid tribute to them as “bright, beautiful and innocent” young women.

In evidence to an inquest in Warrington, Cheshire, into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans, Keighley businessman Trevor Hicks and his former wife Jenni recalled how 19-year-old Sarah and her sister Victoria, 15, died together “in horrific circumstances supporting the team they loved”.

On what would have been Sarah’s 44th birthday, Mr Hicks today remembered her as an attractive, sociable person with a lovely disposition.

Mr Hicks, a former chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, who split up with his wife two years after the disaster, said his younger daughter had exhibited a “strength of character and determination that was scary at times”.

Addressing jurors five days before the 25th anniversary of the tragedy at an FA Cup semi-final on April 15, 1989, Mr Hicks, who lived in Middlesex at the time of the disaster, said of his daughters: “They were very different maybe, but they were very much a pair. They had their arguments but they would defend each other to the death. Literally as it turned out.

“The loss of a child is one of the worst things that can happen to a loving parent. The loss of all your children is devastating. It’s not that it is twice as bad, it’s that you lose everything – your present, your future and then your purpose.

“The most difficult thing for me is the sheer waste of Sarah and Vicki’s life, of their talent and ability, but also their care and compassion.

“They lived together, they died together in horrific circumstances supporting the team they loved, and they are buried together. Need I say more?”

After standing beside her former husband as he read out his statement, Miss Hicks told jurors that Sarah, who turned down a place at Oxford to study chemistry at Liverpool University, had always looked after her little sister.

Victoria, meanwhile, had her heart set on becoming a sports reporter, Miss Hicks added.

At the conclusion of her statement, Miss Hicks, who was at Hillsborough on the day of the tragedy, said of her daughters: “You were two bright, beautiful, innocent young women.

“I left you as you went into a football ground, and a few hours later you were dead.”

Casting his mind back to an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest staged at Hillsborough a year before the disaster, Mr Hicks told the inquest: “We were all at the 1988 semi-final and went back in 1989 full of hope and aspiration for another trip to Wembley. Only Jenni and I made that trip to Wembley.”

Attributing the breakdown of his marriage to the loss of his girls, Mr Hicks added: “Jenni and I divorced in 1991, again as a result of Hillsborough.”

The inquest into the 96 victims of the disaster, who also include Tony Bland, of Keighley, was adjourned until Tuesday April 22.