Hillsborough police boss arrives at inquest

Hillsborough police boss arrives at inquest
David Duckenfield in 1998.

The senior police officer in charge on the day of the Hillsborough disaster in England has arrived at court to give evidence at the new inquests.

Former chief superintendent David Duckenfield, the match commander, came to court long before the expected arrival of around 200 relatives of the dead, who will listen as he gives evidence.

Mr Duckenfield arrived shortly before 8am, with the court due to begin hearing this morning’s evidence at around 10am.

He will be questioned at the hearing over his handling of the match, which left 96 Liverpool fans dead.

He will enter the witness box at the specially-constructed coroner’s court, with the room packed with families of the victims who campaigned for two decades for new inquests to be held.

Dozens more journalists and many lawyers will fill the courtroom, with proceedings also shown in an annex in the building on a business park in Warrington, Cheshire.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died following a crush on the Leppings Lane terrace of Sheffield’s Hillsborough ground as the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest kicked off on April 15 1989.

Mr Duckenfield gave the order to open gates, allowing 2,000 fans massing outside the turnstiles into the ground in the minutes before the fatal crush.

He later told FA officials wrongly that a gate had been forced open, in comments repeated by the press.

Mr Duckenfield took over as Hillsborough commander three weeks before the semi-final.

The jury has heard it was his first experience of policing a sell-out 54,000 crowd at the venue and most of his policing had been in criminal investigations, rather than public order.

As fans massed at the turnstiles in the minutes before kick-off, Superintendent Roger Marshall, who was responsible for the Liverpool fans’ section, repeatedly requested that exit gates be opened to ease the pressure outside, otherwise “somebody would be killed”.

Mr Duckenfield took “some minutes” to make a decision, but believing it was too late to delay kick-off, gave the order at 2.52pm, saying: “If there is likely to be a serious injury or death, I’ve no option but to open the gates. Open the gates.”

Around 2,000 fans then made their way into the ground as Gate C was opened, many heading straight for a tunnel leading directly to pens 3 and 4 behind the goal, already densely packed with fans.

A tactic of police blocking off the tunnel leading into the central pens to disperse fans into other pens on the terrace was not followed on the day, as in previous matches.

A father and son, four pairs of siblings, and a boy of 10 were among the 96 fans crushed to death in the pens.

In the immediate aftermath, Mr Duckenfield told FA executives the gates had been forced open.

This was passed on to the media, causing “some seriously inaccurate reporting of events”, but the jury has been told there is “no question” of Gate C ever being forced open.

Verdicts of accidental death from the original Hillsborough inquest in March 1991 were quashed in December 2012.

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