Socialist Worker

Hillsborough cop says fans ‘weren't aggressive to me or other people’

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2419

Police pushed fans trying to escape a deadly crush at the Hillsborough football stadium in April 1989 back into the pens, an inquest has heard.

Some 96 Liverpool football fans died as a result of the crush.

Former police officer Brian Walton gave evidence to fresh inquests into their deaths on Monday of this week. He was on duty on the day of the disaster.

Walton was asked about his notes recording events on the day. He had written, “I saw police officers throwing back persons into the crowd who were apparently trying to get onto the pitch”.

Walton told the inquest he saw “a police officer on the fencing, and it was my assumption that he was, like, pushing people back”.

He described fans trapped in the pens. “They were just screaming and distraught and there was crying and there was pleading, telling me, ‘I can’t move’, and wanting my help,” he told the jury.

Walton said his initial reaction to the crush was “that it was a public order situation and some sort of pitch invasion”. 

But he said his opinion changed as the disaster unfolded.

He told the jury, “The doubts started to creep in, as in, you know, if these supporters are supposed to be aggressive, they’re just walking around in a dazed state and they’re—it was—they weren’t aggressive towards me or to any other people that I saw, at that time.”

Scale

Another former officer, Brian Wallace, told jurors he didn’t realise the scale of the emergency even after ambulances arrived on the pitch. 

“I still felt that my role at that stage was to be public disorder, because people could still have started fighting,” he said.

Some police accounts seemed to contradict CCTV footage. 

Retired sergeant Lionel Proctor said that crowd pressure had forced open the outer gates to the Leppings Lane turnstiles. 

After questioning, he accepted that CCTV footage gave the impression that officers deliberately opened the gates.

Former sergeant Colin Lomas described seeing many fans carrying “large quantities of alcohol”. In a series of pictures and CCTV footage shown to the court, no fans could be seen to be carrying alcohol.

Lomas said the pictures had been taken elsewhere.

Lomas told the jury that Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Anderson visited officers in Doncaster after the disaster. He agreed that Anderson had told officers that drunk, ticketless fans had caused the crush.

He also said Anderson suggested officers include details about drunk or ticketless fans in their statements but leave out any comments about poor radio communications or low staffing at turnstiles.

Lomas agreed that he would not have recorded anything about drunk or ticketless fans if Anderson hadn’t made these comments because he didn’t think they were relevant.

The inquests continue.


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