Socialist Worker

Police pushed fans back into deadly crush during Hillsborough disaster, inquest hears

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2439

Football scarves left to commemorate the victims of the Hillsborough football disaster

Football scarves left to commemorate the victims of the Hillsborough football disaster (Pic: Nick, flickr)

Police pushed fans back into a deadly crush during the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster and threatened others with arrest, an inquest has heard.

Some 96 Liverpool football fans died as a result of the crush. Fan Deborah Routledge gave evidence to fresh inquests into the deaths last week.

The crush trapped her against a fence at the front of pen 3. She said she “couldn’t move” and described hearing “shouting, screaming, asking for the gates to be open” from fans.

“I saw the officers who were more or less in line with the gate,” she said. “I actually saw the gate being forced open and then I saw the officers who had their backs to us turn round and then push people back in and then shut the gates.”

Once she had escaped the pen she tried to return to help a friend. “I was threatened with arrest,” she told the jury.

Deborah said another friend was threatened with arrest when he asked police to find drivers for ambulances.

Liverpool fan Ian Lee also gave evidence. He said police officers “had their backs to the terracing” for “the vast majority of the time” during the crush.

Ian described fans screaming at officers to let people out. “It was ignored completely,” he told the jury.

Ian said stewards blocked the tunnel leading to pens 3 and 4 when they were full during a match at Hillsborough in 1988. In 1989 this didn’t happen.

Ian also described giving a statement to West Midlands Police officers who were investigating the disaster. He said they became “intimidating” and “aggressive” when he criticised policing on the day.

“They tried to drag it back to fans – were the fans drinking, the fans’ behaviour,” he said. His statement included the sentence, “People without tickets were allowed to get too close to the ground”.


Ian said this was “very misleading” and “not what I meant to say”.

Former solicitor for Liverpool Football Club George Ensor gave evidence on Monday of this week. He said chief superintendent David Duckenfield, who was in charge on the day of the disaster, blamed Liverpool fans.

Ensor told the jury, “I asked him what was the cause of this disaster, and his response was that the Liverpool supporters had failed to heed police warning to arrive early, thus causing additional congestion and pressure on the approach to the ground.

“He was quite clearly blaming the Liverpool supporters.”

Ensor added that he had previously thought that Duckenfield said Liverpool fans had forced a gate open. In fact Duckenfield ordered a gate to be opened to relieve a crush outside the ground – leading to an influx of fans.

Ensor told the inquests, “It’s obviously folly to let people in uncontrolled. It was against all recognised procedures, safety procedures, and sensible discipline at matches.”

Ambulance officer Tony Edwards also gave evidence. He said a police officer stopped his ambulance as he tried to get onto the pitch.

“A policeman came to the door and said that we couldn’t go onto the pitch because they were still fighting,” he told the jury.

The inquests heard that Tony Edwards had accused South Yorkshire Ambulance Service of covering up its failings.

“I think that they were remiss in investigating Hillsborough properly and that then led to a cover up,” he said.

The inquests continue.

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