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Jury in Hillsborough inquests asked if lives of 96 could have been saved

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New pathologists to give evidence into the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster reports Sadie Robinson
Issue 2398
Hillsborough memorial

Hillsborough memorial (Pic: Flickr/Isriya Paireepairit)

Fresh inquests are continuing into the deaths of 96 Liverpool football fans who died as a result of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

Lord Justice Goldring is conducting the inquests in Warrington. He gave a detailed opening statement to the jury last week. 

Goldring said jurors would have to consider “the underlying circumstances which contributed to the cause of these deaths, whether opportunities were lost which might have prevented the deaths or saved lives”.

He outlined the background to the disaster, which took place on 15 April 1989. Fans died after a crush developed in pens three and four of the Leppings Lane end of the Hillsborough football stadium in Sheffield.

Goldring described changes to the layout of the stadium, pens and fencing that were “added out of a concern about hooliganism”.


He said the jury would have to consider how clear directions and signs to pens were. Gates allowed access between pens. 

But Goldring said these may not have been obvious to fans unfamiliar with the ground, or may not always have been accessible.

The jury heard that the safety certificate for the ground specified the maximum number of people for the Leppings Lane end of the stadium.

Goldring told jurors that they would hear expert evidence that the figure was “substantially too high”. 

There was also no way of identifying how many fans were in particular pens.

Chief Superintendent Duckenfield was in overall control of the police operation on the day.

He had not commanded a match at Hillsborough before. 

Goldring said the jury would have to consider whether it was a “sensible decision” to put Duckenfield in charge. Goldring said police “were concerned with keeping the fans apart” in their planning for the day. 

He said this was in response to concerns about hooliganism.


A crush developed outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles in the run-up to a 3pm kickoff.

Duckenfield gave an order to open Gate C in response, and it was opened at 2.52pm. “He gave his order by radio,” said Lord Goldring. “It was acted on immediately.”

But later Duckenfield told Graham Kelly, chief executive of the Football Association, that Liverpool fans forced the gate open.

Goldring said, “Soon afterwards, Mr Kelly gave a radio interview in which he said that this was the police account of events. Other media outlets picked this up. This early account resulted in some seriously inaccurate reporting of events.”

Coroner Stefan Popper did not look at evidence after 3.15pm at the first inquests. This is because pathologists ruled that irreversible and fatal brain injury would have occurred within four to six minutes of receiving injuries from crushing.

Goldring told jurors that “whether that is right will be something for you to consider”. 

He said new pathologists would be asked if any of the victims could have been saved with “better medical care”.

The inquests continue.


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