Socialist Worker

Hillsborough cop recalls attitudes towards fans based on 'public order' concern

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2414

A former police officer has said that some police attitudes towards fans during the Hillsborough football disaster flowed from a preoccupation with “public order”. 

Some 96 Liverpool football fans died as a result of a crush at the Leppings Lane end of the Sheffield stadium in 1989.

Former police officer Trevor Bichard gave evidence to fresh inquests into the deaths this week.

Bichard said he interpreted the crush as a public order incident. After watching images from the day he said, “I sit here today and I see something completely different.”

Counsel to the inquests Christina Lambert asked him, “Those fans who had come out of the pens were not rushing onto the pitch, were they?”

Bichard said no.

Lambert went on, “Why did you think it might be a pitch invasion when, putting it bluntly, the pitch was not being invaded?” 

Bichard replied, “Well hindsight is a wonderful thing”.

She asked if anyone was monitoring the crowd in pens three and four at the Leppings Lane end of the ground. Bichard replied, “As far as I know, nobody. I certainly wasn’t.”

Pete Weatherby questioned Bichard on behalf of 22 of the families of the dead. He told Bichard problems were “clearly emerging from at least 2.15pm” and that police had “plenty of opportunity” to take action to avert the crush.

Bichard replied, “I think there were options that were available, yes.”

The inquests continue.

Former detective inspector Stephen Ellis gave evidence on Monday of last week. He was at the Leppings Lane end of the ground on the day, which contained the two pens where the crush took place.

Ellis described a crush outside the turnstiles as fans tried to enter the ground. He said there was “mania, madness” as fans tried to enter for the 3pm kick off and he describes becoming angry with fans.

“I acted for a minute with one fan – I was surrounded by them – and I screamed in his face,” Ellis told the jury. “I have no doubt I was abusive to him. I told him where to go.”

Ellis told the inquest that he had no criticism of police officers’ actions on the day.

Continuing his evidence on Tuesday of last week, Ellis claimed fans were “hostile” to police after the crush and he feared they would riot.

Christopher Williams, representing some of the families of the dead, questioned Ellis. He said Ellis was trying to imply that the crush outside the ground was a result of fans arriving late.

Williams said police had lost control of the ground from as early as 2.30pm. Ellis said, “That is not what happened”. Williams also suggested that Ellis had “grossly exaggerated” Liverpool fans’ behaviour.

Ellis insisted that “it was madness”.

Steward John Castley also gave evidence last week. He was on duty at the Spion Kop end of the ground. He said he could see something serious happening at the Leppings Lane end just after 3pm and that it wasn’t a pitch invasion.

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Tue 29 Jul 2014, 18:12 BST
Issue No. 2414
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