Socialist Worker

Hillsborough: The police pushed fans back in pens

Issue No. 2501

Photo of pen 3

Photo of pen 3 (Pic: Hillsborough Inquest)


Police pushed fans back into the deadly crush. Liverpool fan Mark Frankland said, “They were pushing people off the fences and back into the cages.”

Former police officer Brian Walton said he saw “police officers throwing back persons into the crowd” as they tried to escape the crush.

Alison Willis was in pen 4. She said she tried to tell an officer that people were dying in the pen and the officer replied, “Get back in, you fucking Scouse bastard.”

Deborah Routledge said she was “threatened with arrest” when she tried to help a friend in the pens.

The inquest heard severe criticisms of the emergency response on the day of the disaster. Many witnesses also described seeing signs of life in victims.

The court heard several times from witnesses who said the emergency services did not check for signs of life in injured fans.

Pathologists and medical experts said that several victims may have lived if they had better medical treatment earlier.

Overwhelmed

Consultant James Wardrope said the A&E department at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital was overwhelmed with injured fans.

Some victims were taken to a temporary mortuary because the resources weren’t there to treat them. Wardrope said he didn’t realise the scale of the disaster because police had not declared a major incident.

Ambulance staff said lives could have been saved if the emergency response was organised differently.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel found evidence that 41 victims could have been saved if they had been able to access emergency services.

There was also evidence that people were alive but had been assessed as dead.

Former police officer Andrew Eddison made a statement describing pulling casualties from a pile in the gate to pen 3.

It said, “I could see a hand from the bottom of the pile of bodies grabbing my trousers, somebody was still alive.

“The pulling on my trouser leg stopped.”


Families were treated ‘like muck’

Such was the scale of smears targeting Liverpool fans, relatives of the dead have had to plead for their loved ones to be treated with respect.

Many relatives gave “pen portraits” of the dead to the inquests soon after they began in April 2014.

Kathleen Thompson spoke about her late husband Patrick John Thompson, who died due to the crush aged 35.

She said, “Please listen to the evidence and let my children know that their dad was not a hooligan, but a hardworking family man who just happened to love football.”

Jennifer Birtle’s son David was 22 when he died as a result of the crush.

She was abroad when she heard the news.

She said, “I had to listen to two expats reading the local paper and saying, ‘Oh, the police say it was hooligans,’ as if it was their own fault.”

Some relatives were told they could not touch the victims in the immediate aftermath of the crush.

Leslie Jones said police said his son Richard was “the property of the coroner now”.

Francis Tyrrell, whose son Kevin died due to the disaster, said he was “just getting treated like muck”.


‘We were an easy target for the powerful’

Stephen Wright was at the Hillsborough game. His 17 year old brother Graham died in the disaster.

“I’ve always known the truth about Hillsborough. But the establishment has ways and means of covering things up and they’ve done it well. Margaret Thatcher’s been let off scot free.

“Bernard Ingham, her press secretary at the time, said the fans were a ‘tanked up mob’. He gave a little window, a little insight, into what their thinking was. And he never apologised.

“The Taylor Inquiry criticised South Yorkshire Police. Thatcher didn’t want to welcome it. This was her favourite police force. It was the force that had done the miners in.

“She wasn’t going to let them take the rap. The police cover-up came from the top.

“Two hours after the match was stopped they were photographing inside litter bins looking for drink cans. They were getting their story ready right from the off.

“Blood alcohol levels were taken, even from a ten year old child.

“Criminal record checks were done on the dead. These are 96 men, women and children who died in a tragedy and they’re treated like that.

“The police and the Tories fed the lies to the right wing press, and the right wing press put it out there.

“We were an easy target for those in power. We were only working class football supporters.”


The Hillsborough stadium was unsafe

The Hillsborough stadium was unsafe on the day of the disaster. There was no way of recording numbers of fans going into different areas of the ground. This breached the requirements of the ground’s safety certificate.

The club turned down plans for turnstiles that would record the number of fans going into each area.

It chose an alternative that cost half the price.

Former Sheffield Wednesday football club safety officer Graham Mackrell agreed that the turnstile system was “deeply flawed”.

David Moore, a former environmental health officer at Sheffield City Council, said it was a “political decision” not to raise safety concerns.

He said the engineer in charge of the stadium, Wilfred Eastwood, became “irate” when safety concerns were raised in 1986.

He said Eastwood threatened to sue the council if it successfully objected to a development at the Spion Kop stand.

Former officer Lillyan Sosnowski said it was hard to pull fans from the pens partly because an exit gate was so narrow.

The court heard that the gate to pen 4 was 77cm wide but the guide required it to be 110cm wide.

John Strange, who worked for engineering firm Eastwood and Partners at the time, said the calculated capacity for pens 3 and 4 was wrong.

Fans gave evidence of crushing at previous matches.

One fan, Norman Fenton, said a crush in 1981 left many fans “more than just distressed”.

 


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