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The BBC's John Thorne
"The judge has gone to great lengths to prepare a jury"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 13 June, 2000, 18:41 GMT 19:41 UK
Hillsborough police 'blamed fans'
Scene from Hillsborough disaster
The court was shown photos of fans forced over terrace pens
Leeds Crown Court has heard that the senior police officer in charge at the Hillsborough disaster tried to divert blame on to fans for the tragedy eleven years ago.

Prosecutor Alun Jones QC told the court that Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield gave the order to open gates that allowed hundreds of fans to flood on to the already crowded terraces at the Sheffield Wednesday Stadium.

But minutes after the disaster, in which 89 fans were crushed to death, he "deceitfully and dishonestly" told senior FA officials that the supporters had forced the gate open themselves, Mr Jones said.

Six weeks later Mr Duckenfield changed his account under public questioning when he made a public apology for suggesting that Liverpool spectators caused the disaster, he added.


Former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield
Superintendent Duckenfield: court heard he blamed fans
David Duckenfield and another officer on duty, Bernard Murray, both now retired from South Yorkshire Police, deny charges of unlawful killing through criminal negligence.

The two fans named in the representative charges are John Anderson, 62, and James Aspinall, 18.

The trial is the result of a private prosecution brought to court by the Hillsborough Family Support Group.

Duckenfield deceitfully and dishonestly concealed from those men that he had himself ordered the exit gates opened

Alun Jones QC

Both defendants also deny a second charge of wilfully neglecting to carry out a public duty.

Deceitful and dishonest

Mr Jones told the court that Mr Duckenfield spoke to FA chief executive Graham Kelly in the police control box overlooking the terraces minutes after the disaster.

He said Duckenfield recognised very quickly the causes of the disaster "and he was responsible".

"He realised that a man like Graham Kelly would be likely to talk within minutes to the media and he sought to deflect the blame from himself and place it on the spectators."

"Duckenfield deceitfully and dishonestly concealed from those men that he had himself ordered the exit gates to be opened because the crush at the turnstiles had become so severe"

He later gave two accounts of what he had said to Mr Kelly, the first, that the gates had burst open themselves, and the second an "extraordinary assertion" that he feared crowd disorder if he had admitted he had given the order.

"Obvious step"

The court was told that the two policemen also failed to take the "obvious step" of blocking off a narrow tunnel leading to the terraces where the fatal overcrowding took place.

Alun Jones told the court the tragedy could have been averted if the defendants had ordered officers to block or close off the tunnel to terrace pens three and four.

They surrendered responsibility for their personal safety to the controlling police officers as completely as we do to a pilot and his co-pilot when we board a plane

Alun Jones QC

He said the pens were, in effect, "cages", and said that police officers owed a "duty of care" to the fans inside them.

The football-goers had "surrendered responsibility for their personal safety to the controlling police officers as completely as we do to a pilot and his co-pilot when we board a plane." Mr Jones told the court.

No speculation

When court proceedings began, Mr Jones asked the jury to try not to be affected by the unusual circumstances of the trial.

Alun Jones QC, prosecuting, told the jury: "This prosecution is unusual because the case is being tried more than 11 years after the event.
Perimeter gates at Hillsborough Stadium
The court heard that perimeter gates were opened during the game

"We ask you not to speculate why this case is brought now - equally we ask you not to speculate why no prosecution was brought, by us or others, nearer the time."

Relatives of some of the victims were in the packed courtroom to hear the case open.

The trial at Leeds Crown Court is expected to last five weeks, and is being heard under Justice Hooper.

The Hillsborough Family Support Group has the former Football Association chief executive Graham Kelly amongst its 34 witnesses.

The hearing was adjourned until Wednesday, when the jury will view video film of the disaster.

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