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Monday, 10 July, 2000, 18:40 GMT 19:40 UK
Memory haunts Hillsborough officer
Crowds at Hillsborough
Crowds converge on Hillsborough for the FA Cup semi-final
One of the senior police officers at the Hillsborough disaster says he is haunted by the belief he could have saved some of the 96 people who died.

Former Superintendent Bernard Murray asked victims' relatives for a little understanding when he gave evidence at Leeds Crown Court on Monday.

I thought the terraces were safe

Former Superintendent Bernard Murray
Mr Murray, and former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, 55, of Bournemouth, Dorset, have pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of two people killed at Hillsborough.

Fighting back the tears, Mr Murray, 58, of Pontefract, West Yorkshire, said he felt a sense of responsibility for those who died during the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in April 1989.

He said he was haunted by the thought that if he had closed a central tunnel to the Leppings Lane terrace, lives may have been saved.

The prosecution claims the tragedy occurred after exit Gate C was opened to relieve pressure on the turnstiles, causing hundreds of people to flood into the pens.

Crush fears

Mr Murray, speaking on the 22nd day of the trial, said: "I am very much aware that there was a course of action which, if I had thought about it and realised I could have taken, it might have prevented people going down the tunnel.

"Its effectiveness I do not know, but it's something I might have done."

Bernard Murray appeals to victims' families for a little understanding
He said Gate C was opened after pleas from officers fearing people would be killed in the crush outside the stadium.

Mr Murray said: "My one desire was getting those people away from that life or death situation by the turnstiles.

"I thought the terraces were safe."

He said he only became aware of how serious the situation was when he went down onto the pitch just after kick-off.

"I was astounded when I saw what was happening behind the fence," he said.

Appeal for understanding

He knew there were casualties and called for a fleet of ambulances.

It is the first time Mr Murray has spoken in detail about the disaster since the public inquiry and inquest ten years ago.

He said he was a parent himself and had a great deal of sympathy for the victims' families.

"I know what they have lost, I know how they must feel and I know a lot of them blame me.

"I just hope they can be a little understanding because it does affect me," he said.

The case continues.

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