Socialist Worker

Police did ‘nothing to help’ during Hillsborough crush, says bereaved parent

Issue No. 2643

Hillsborough stadium

Hillsborough stadium (Pic: Gareth Simpson/Flickr)


A father whose two daughters died in the Hillsborough disaster was told by a police officer to “shut your fucking prattle” as he appealed for help.

Trevor Hicks was in pen 2 while a crush developed in adjacent pen 3, where his daughters Sarah and Vicki were. He told a court that he was “very concerned” about how full the pen was and tried to alert a police officer.

The officer “told me to shut my fucking prattle,” Hicks told Preston Crown Court.

Some 96 Liverpool fans died as a result of the 1989 disaster, after a crush built up in pens 3 and 4 at the Leppings Lane end of the Hillsborough stadium.

David Duckenfield was police match commander on the day. He faces 95 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence. Duckenfield can’t be charged over the death of the 96th victim, Tony Bland, as Bland died four years after the disaster.

Graham Mackrell, then Sheffield Wednesday club safety officer, faces two charges relating to safety breaches. Both men deny the charges.

Hicks and his family also attended the 1988 semi-final at Hillsborough. He said police officers checked tickets twice on their approach to the ground that year.

In 1989 he could recall no ticket checks on the approach.

After the 1989 game was stopped, Hicks had to decide whether to go with Vicki to a hospital or stay with Sarah. He told the court it was “probably the worst moment of my life”.

Barry Devonside’s son Christopher also died in the disaster. He described officers checking tickets on the approach to the ground for the semi-final in 1988, which slowed fans heading to the ground. He said this didn’t happen in 1989.

He also said stewards blocked the tunnel to the central pens in 1988 with one saying “the pens at the bottom were chock-a-block, or words to that effect”.

In 1989 Devonside was in the North Stand overlooking pens 3 and 4. He said as fans tried to escape them, some officers pushed them back while others “endeavoured to help”.

Devonside added that a “cavalcade” of officers stood on the halfway line “doing nothing to help”. He said when he went to the ground’s gym to look for his son, the officer who answered the door “treated me as if I was dirt on his shoes”.

The court heard that the officer told Devonside a “bare faced blatant lie” that Chris wasn’t in the gym. Devonside visited hospitals and two mortuaries before he returned to the gym at 11pm to learn that “Chris had been there all that time”.

Steven Allen was a Liverpool fan and Metropolitan Police officer in 1989. He entered the ground when Gate C was opened and said there was no advice or direction as to where to go.

Dolores Steele’s son Philip died in the disaster. She told the court last week that fans shouted that people were dying but “nothing seemed to be getting done about it”.

The court heard that police prevented her from going into the gym to look for Philip.

Confused

Liverpool fan Ian Mullins said it seemed police were confused and that it was left to fans to respond to the disaster.

Nottingham police officer Brian Walton was on duty at Hillsborough. He said that when fans climbed over the fencing to escape the pens some officers pushed them back. “I realised that too many people had been allowed into the area,” he said.

Liverpool fan and Merseyside police officer Colin Allen’s evidence was read to the court. He was in pen 3 and described seeing one fan whose face had turned “black”.

Allen described the police performance as “non-existent” save for one woman PC he worked with.

Liverpool fan Colin Moneypenny’s evidence was also read to the court. He said organisation outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles was “non-existent” and that there was a “total absence of supervision” inside and outside the ground.

The court was read evidence from former police inspector David Bullas. He described a pre-match briefing from Duckenfield as “well organised and clearly presented”.

Former inspector Peter Darling said officers on the pitch were expected to monitor the crowd in the pens to identify problems. He recalled no instructions being given to officers trying to help fans in the pens, but said there were radio problems.

John Nesbit was a chief superintendent working in the traffic division on the day of the disaster. He later went to the ground as a football supporter.

Nesbit heard there were problems and went to pen 3. He saw fans with their faces pressed to the fence. He helped clear a gate to the pen, and instructed officers to form a chain to pass people out of the pen.

He also instructed another officer to use a loudhailer to ask fans to move back, and another to make a Tannoy announcement for people not to leave the stadium so access routes were kept clear for emergency services.

The court heard that Duckenfield commanded two further matches at Hillsborough after the disaster. Nesbit replaced Duckenfield as head of F Division, which covered Hillsborough, in June 1989.

The trial was set to resume on Wednesday this week.


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