Police gave a false impression of fans’ alcohol consumption in the wake of the Hillsborough football disaster, an inquest has heard.
Albert Page was chief ambulance officer for South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service (SYMAS) at the time of the disaster. He gave evidence to fresh inquests into their deaths last week.
He told the jury that he met with Chief Constable Peter Wright from South Yorkshire Police soon after the crush. He raised concerns that police statements reported in the media were inaccurate.
Police sources had been quoted saying that nobody died or was injured in the tunnel leading to the central pens where the crush occurred. Other quotes were “effectively blaming the disaster on drunken
Page said, “There was a suggestion in the media that they were full of alcohol and smelled of alcohol. My people were saying that there was very few people in the fatality stage that had strong smells of alcohol on them.”
When asked if that applied to survivors as well as the dead Page said, “It would have gone to the injured and the survivors”.
Page said lives could have been saved had police declared a major incident faster. A major incident was declared at 3.22pm on the day of the disaster. Yet footage shows fans climbing out of pens 3 and 4 at 2.59pm to escape the crush.
He added that emergency services should have informed hospitals about the scale of the disaster sooner than they did. He agreed that the overall responsibility for the emergency response lay with the police.
He said, “At first, the police were treating it, I think, as a sort of pitch invasion and hooliganism.”
David tried to help injured fans when he escaped the crush. One person he was giving mouth to mouth resuscitation to between 3.15pm and 3.20pm came round and started talking.
Adrian Daley, a junior South Yorkshire Police officer, gave evidence on Monday of this week. He said senior officers asked him to remove parts of his statement that referred to him receiving no direction from senior officers.
Senior Merseyside police officer Sir James Sharples, who also gave evidence, said police dealt with the disaster “reasonably well”.
But Barry Devonside, whose 18 year old son was killed in the disaster, described the police response to the crush as “aimless”.
The inquests continue.