Socialist Worker

Hillsborough: The Truth

Forget the smears about fans—police caused the Hillsborough disaster, says Sadie Robinson

Issue No. 2501

Justice for the 96

Justice for the 96 (Pic: PA)


Police caused the deaths of 96 people in the Hillsborough football disaster.

For 27 years cops, Tory MPs and right wing newspapers conspired to blame Liverpool fans for the deadly crush at the Sheffield stadium in 1989.

But former chief superintendent David Duckenfield agreed at recent inquests that his failings were “the direct cause” of the deaths.

Duckenfield was match commander on the day of the disaster, 15 April 1989.

He ordered a gate to be opened at 2.52pm after a crowd built up outside the Leppings Lane end of the ground.

Around 2,000 fans streamed into the stadium and two thirds went down a tunnel leading to pens 3 and 4, where the deadly crush took place.

Police blamed fans for the chaos at Leppings Lane.

They claimed drunk, ticketless fans deliberately arrived late to force police to allow them into the ground. The inquests showed this to be a lie.

Late fans didn’t cause the crush. The court was shown footage of the Leppings Lane turnstiles at 2.06pm, 2.11pm, 2.13pm, 2.14pm, 2.16pm and 2.30pm.

Backlog

Duckenfield agreed the footage showed fans arriving in good time. He agreed that the backlog of fans developing at 2.15pm would get worse.

Superintendent Roger Marshall was in charge of fans at the Leppings Lane turnstiles.

At 2.17pm he requested that Leppings Lane be closed to traffic because of the numbers of fans there.

This was a “significant request” that he had never made before.

Marshall agreed that there was a problem at Leppings Lane from 2.15pm.

He agreed that if all fans had arrived by 2.20pm they still wouldn’t all have been in the ground by the time gate C opened.

Drunk fans didn’t cause the crush.

The coroner in the original inquests, Dr Stefan Popper, ordered blood samples from the dead to test for blood alcohol levels.

The coroner in the fresh inquests, Sir John Goldring, said this was “not normal”.

He added, “Over half of the victims had either no alcohol in their blood or an amount which was entirely negligible.

“Most of the others had levels which was consistent with only modest social drinking before a sporting event.”

Ticketless fans didn’t cause the crush. Structural engineer John Cutlack calculated that 14,264 fans entered the ground for the west stand, west terrace or north-west terrace.

The figure included fans who had entered via turnstiles, through gate C when it was opened on two occasions, or by climbing over the wall.

The figure was 300 lower than the number of fans who had bought tickets for that area.

Failings

Police failings caused the disaster. Yet even as fans lay dying on the pitch, senior officers were pinning the blame on supporters.

At around 3.15pm Duckenfield told three football officials that Liverpool fans had forced a gate.

Duckenfield said he quickly realised this was a “dreadful mistake”. He didn’t correct it.

Within hours police were looking for evidence to back up their lies.

The match was stopped at 3.06pm. By 5.15pm “police photographers had been sent out to take photographs of cans of drink around the area of the stadium”.

Socialist Worker said at the time, “Liverpool football fans died because government and police refused to treat them as human beings.”

Police treated desperate fans trying to escape the crush as hooligans.

Fences and pens that treated supporters as little more than animals trapped fans in the crush.

Duckenfield agreed that his main focus had been on crowd segregation.

When asked what he was doing in the emergency response he said, “First of all, I was making the necessary plans to make sure there wasn’t a pitch invasion.”

The media and the Tories lined up to help senior police lie about their role in the disaster and shift the blame onto the fans.

Hillsborough shows the utter contempt that the entire establishment has for working class people.


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