Socialist Worker

Witnesses talk of ‘small changes’ in survivors’ life signs amid ‘utter bedlam’ of Hillsborough disaster

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2460

David Hawley died at Hillsborough

David Hawley died at Hillsborough

Inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans who died as a result of the 1989 disaster are continuing to hear evidence about fans’ last movements.

Nottingham Forest fan Martin Carey said he saw 17 year old victim Stephen O’Neill on the pitch after the crush.

Martin said, “There was definitely a light pulse in the wrist.” He added that Stephen vomited but remained unconscious, and vomited again when in an ambulance. He said he found a pulse again in the ambulance.

Martin said that the hospital “was obviously very ill-prepared” for the arrival of the first casualties.

Victim David Hawley had three children. The court heard that Fiona Nicol, who was a police officer on duty at Hillsborough, had said David looked blue or grey after the crush.

Nicol “was confident that checks had been made by others, but not by her, for any signs of life”.

Steven Robinson was 17 when he died. Nurse Michael Hollinghurst tried to assess a casualty thought to be Steven.

Michael agreed that the situation in the pens was “utter bedlam” and that it would be easy to miss a small change in a casualty.

Former police constable Russell Wilks said he couldn’t remember checking Steven for vital signs.

He agreed that he wasn’t in a position to say whether Steven was just unconscious.

Former police officer Martin Smith also told the court that he didn’t undertake any checks on Steven and accepted that a visual assessment could be fallible.


Former police inspector John Harper confirmed that Steven wasn’t put in the recovery position or given CPR in the ambulance. When asked if he did not assess Steven because he thought he was dead Harper replied, “Not at all, no. I’m trying to save people, not kill them.”

The court heard evidence relating to 26 year old victim Paul Hewitson on Wednesday of last week.

Terrence Moore was with Paul in pen 3. “All I could see of Paul was his head,” he told the court.

“He was looking towards me and he said, ‘Get me out, Terry, get me out’.”

Terry said he thought he blacked out and when he came round he looked for Paul. “When I found him, he was lying on his front with his arms outstretched,” he said. “I realised he was dead.”

The court heard evidence relating to 19 year old victim Colin Ashcroft on Monday of this week. Colin was in pen 4. Former police constable David Butler said he and another person tried to assist Colin until a doctor “declared life extinct and covered the man’s face”.

Footage showed Butler with Colin for around two minutes. An image showed Butler wearing gloves. He said it would have been “impossible” to check for a pulse while wearing gloves.

In a statement in 2013 Butler said, “I was shocked that Colin had died, as he felt warm and his skin colour was yellow. He looked alive to me.”

Butler is thought to have carried 29 year old victim Anthony Kelly on an advertising hoarding to the stadium’s gym. He said he could not remember if he made any checks on Anthony before leaving him outside the gym.

Former police constable Andrew Mackay had described Colin as “obviously dead” when he saw him after the crush. When asked why he said, “I think the use of that phrase was contributed to by my inexperience at that time, but it was his appearance.

“It was based solely on his appearance.”

He said he didn’t check for a pulse or breathing.

Former police officer Kevin Goddard also said he thought Colin was dead. When asked why he said, “It was comments passed by somebody around me.”

The inquests continue.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.