The police commander in charge of the English soccer match at which 96 Liverpool supporters died in 1989 told an inquest on Tuesday that his failure to close a tunnel “was the direct cause” of the loss of lives.
The BBC reported that former chief superintendent David Duckenfield admitted he “froze” as the tragedy unfolded at the FA Cup semi-final in April 1989 between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough, Sheffield.
Duckenfield was giving evidence at the Hillsborough inquest in Warrington, where jurors were told he had at least three minutes to “consider the consequences” of opening an exit gate at the stadium as a crowd of fans built up outside.
But he said he had “no idea” Liverpool fans would head for a tunnel which led to the already-packed terraces of the central pens at the Leppings Lane end of the ground.
Paul Greaney QC, on behalf of the Police Federation of England and Wales, made five statements directly related to the opening of the tunnel and Duckenfield replied “Yes” to each one.
“People died in the crush in the central pens,” said Greaney.
“If people hadn’t gone down the tunnel, those deaths would have been prevented.
“Closing the tunnel would have prevented the deaths,” Greaney said.
“You failed to recognise the need to close the tunnel.
“That failure was the direct cause for the 96 deaths,” Greaney said.
Earlier in the inquest, Duckenfield, now aged 70, admitted lying at a previous hearing.
“Everybody knew the truth, the fans and police knew the truth that we’d opened the gates,” he said, adding that he had “no idea” what had made him lie before apologising unreservedly to the families.
The Liverpool supporters were crushed to death on the terraces and The Taylor Report in 1990 concluded that the main cause of the disaster was the failure of police control.
It prompted major changes in safety standards at stadiums in Britain with perimeter fencing removed and many grounds converted to all-seating.
The inquest continues.(Reuters)