Police lost control at Hillsborough, top officer admits

A SENIOR officer on duty when the Hillsborough tragedy took place has agreed that police had “lost control completely” of the crowd outside the relevant part of the football ground 25 minutes before kick-off.

Former Superintendent Roger Marshall arrives at Birchwood Park in Warrington
Former Superintendent Roger Marshall arrives at Birchwood Park in Warrington

Former superintendent Roger Marshall, who was in charge of policing the turnstiles outside the Leppings Lane end of the Hillsborough stadium insisted fans were pushing as they waited to get into the fateful FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in April 1989.

Mr Marshall was giving evidence for a second day at the inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans being held in Warrington.

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Pete Weatherby QC, representing some of the bereaved families, played him video footage of the crowd at the turnstiles at 2.35pm on match day.

Mt Weatherby said to him: “Police had lost control completely?”

The former officer replied: “Yes”.

Mr Marshall earlier told the barrister: “There was a tremendous amount of surging going on. People are pushing their way into the area.”

Mr Weatherby suggested to him that there was no apparent misbehaviour by the fans in the clip.

The former officer said: “There’s clearly some evidence of what I spoke about yesterday. People with any common sense would see that this area was completely packed with people. I just question why people would then push and move.”

Mr Weatherby said: “There’s no pushing going on there is there?”

Mr Marshall said: “I think there is.”

Yesterday, Mr Marshall said he wished he had requested a delay to the 3pm kick-off.

Mr Marshall told the inquest: “I think that some of the fans, not all of the fans, have a responsibility for what occurred and the situation that arose under my command.”

He had been asked by Mr Weatherby about drinking by fans before the game.

Mr Marshall said he thought some fans had had too much to drink and that “coloured their judgment”.

The barrister asked whether he was trying to “shift the blame”.

The former officer told the jury: “No, I’m not doing that.”

He said he hated using the word blame and said he was horrified by media reports of yesterday’s proceedings which, he said, indicated he had blamed the fans.

“I don’t ever recall using the word blame at all,” he said.

He agreed that if the disaster had not happened he would have thought twice about the drinking of the fans.

Mr Weatherby asked Mr Marshall whether he thought fans arriving late had any influence on what happened on the day.

He said the number of people arriving at the turnstiles “complicated the situation”.

Mr Weatherby said to him: “Lateness had no impact whatsoever on what happened in 1989?”

Mr Marshall said: “Vast numbers of people can be seen arriving in the period between 2.35pm and 3 o’clock. Large numbers of people are still arriving after 3pm.”

He said: “I had a naive expectation that people would co-operate.”

And Mr Weatherby asked the former officer whether he agreed that ticketless fans had no influence on what transpired.

Mr Marshall said: “I can’t either agree or disagree on that.”