Socialist Worker

Hillsborough police officers lacked direction, hears inquest

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2496

A Hillsborough memorial

A Hillsborough memorial (Pic: Nick/Flickr)

Police officers lacked direction during the Hillsborough disaster, an inquest jury has heard.

Some 96 Liverpool fans died as a result of a crush at the Sheffield stadium in April 1989.

Coroner Sir John Goldring last week summed up evidence given by police officers who were on the pitch in the wake of the crush.

He said police constable Brian Huckstep said he received “no direction from senior police officers once he went onto the pitch”.

Police formed a cordon across the pitch as fans lay injured. Inspector Brian Wallace said fans were screaming at officers, “What are you doing? Get over there and help.”

Wallace accepted the cordon seemed “ridiculous and very frustrating”.

Detective Inspector John Charles described “unbelievable chaos” in the ground’s gymnasium, where dead and injured fans were taken. He said the area just inside the door was “littered with bodies”.

The coroner reminded the jury of evidence given by off-duty medics who helped the injured. One, professor John Ashton, said the emergency response had been “woefully inadequate”.

Ambulance station officer Paul Eason had agreed that valuable minutes were lost because the problem was initially thought to be crowd disorder.

Eason arrived in front of pens 3 and 4 at 3.04pm. He declared a major incident at around 3.22pm. He accepted that he may have panicked and agreed that he failed to properly assess the situation in the pens.

The coroner said the jury would have to consider whether ambulance staff saw the suffering in the pens and ignored it. A number of ambulance workers told the inquests of a lack of senior ambulance or police officers on the pitch and a lack of instruction.

Former chief ambulance officer Albert Page agreed that Eason’s failure to declare a major incident immediately was a “very serious failing”. He also said it wasn’t acceptable that Eason did not check what was happening in the pens.

The coroner said the jury would have to consider whether any error by the ambulance service had caused or contributed to loss of life. They would have to consider whether lives could have been saved.

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