Hillsborough police chief apologises for lie
The police chief at the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster apologised on Wednesday (March 11) to the families of the 96 Liverpool supporters killed, saying he regretted lying about how the tragedy unfolded.
David Duckenfield gave the order to open a side gate into the ground after being told that a pre-match crush outside could lead to deaths.
Former chief superintendent Duckenfield told the inquest into the deaths that he remembered saying to a fellow officer: “If people are going to die, I have no option but to open the gates. Open the gates.”
Around 2,000 fans surged in, with most heading straight down the tunnel facing them, towards the fenced-in Leppings Lane terrace’s already-packed central pens.
“I was overcome by the enormity of the situation and the decision I had to make,” he said.
“That is arguably one of the biggest regrets of my life — that I did not foresee where fans would go when they came in through the gates,” he added.
The terrace crush at the neutral Hillsborough ground in Sheffield, northern England, happened at an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in April 1989. It was Britain’s worst sporting disaster.
Minutes later, Duckenfield had a meeting with the Football Association governing body’s boss Graham Kelly, telling him that fans had “got in through the gates” — without saying it was he who had authorised it.
The 70-year-old said he knew he had told a “terrible lie”.
Duckenfield continued: “What I would like to say to the Liverpool families is this: I regret that omission and I shall regret it to my dying day.
“I said something rather hurriedly, without considering the position, without thinking of the consequence and the trauma, heartache and distress that the inference would have caused,” he said.
The probe, which is actually made up of multiple inquests for the individual deaths, is being held at a purpose-built court outside Warrington, east of Liverpool. It got under way in March 2014 and is expected to last until at least November.
The original coroner’s verdicts were quashed in 2012 amid claims of a police cover-up.
At the start of his testimony on Tuesday, Duckenfield admitted he was inexperienced in policing matches and “was not the best man for the job on the day”.