Hillsborough inquests: 'Lack of leadership' during disaster

Hillsborough Memorial The inquests will not finish until July of next year

A "lack of leadership" exacerbated problems as the Hillsborough disaster unfolded, a journalist covering the 1989 FA Cup match told the inquests.

David Walker, who was working for the Daily Mail, was giving evidence at the inquests into 96 deaths as a result of a crush at the semi-final in Sheffield.

Ch Insp David Beal who wrote the game's operational order also gave evidence.

He said it should have had an order to block the tunnel leading to central pens if they were full with hindsight.

Mr Walker, who was chief northern sports writer at the time, told the inquests he could see from the press box the side pens at the Leppings Lane end were not full prior to kick off and thought the start of the match would be delayed.

'Absolute chaos'

The match did go ahead but when it was stopped at 15:06 BST, he went on to the Sheffield Wednesday pitch to find out what had happened and then to help with casualties, the jury was told.

He said the issue that sticks with him to this day about the disaster "beyond the terrible tragedy of the 96 fans dying" was "the absolute chaos, the lack of leadership around me".

He told the jury he had been surprised to hear Liverpool fans, some without tickets, had been allowed in through an exit gate, to watch the game.

As the disaster unfolded a story, started by police, was leaked that Liverpool fans had "broken in" to the game by either forcing the door or picking the lock, "which they had not", Mr Walker said.

He said he spoke to between 12 and 20 fans who told him they had made it into the ground without tickets, he said.

"They were saying 'I didn't have a ticket but we got in there and we were trying to get in', that's when the comparison immediately struck me that in previous major Sheffield Wednesday games and also semi-finals, to my knowledge you wouldn't have got in to that Leppings Lane courtyard without a ticket," he explained.

He told the jury he had known exit gates to be opened at previous games but only when there was "enough space in the ground to safely allow them to enter".

On Wednesday, the jury heard from a South Yorkshire Police sergeant who had policed the Leppings Lane end at the 1988 semi-final.

'Officers at tunnel'

Sgt Howard Cable described how he and his officers blocked off the entrance to the tunnel and directed fans to the sides of the terrace.

The now retired Ch Insp Beal, who also wrote the operational order for the 1987 and 1988 FA Cup semi-finals at Hillsborough, said the use of this tactic had not been fed back to him at match debriefings before the 1989 match but said it "should have formed part of the operational order".

Asked why by Christina Lambert QC, counsel to the inquests, he said: 'Because then the officers on duty in that particular area would be alert to the fact they may be called upon to do it."

Ch Insp Beal said: "Were I drafting the order today, but under those circumstances, no change in the geography of the ground or the structures, there should be a dedicated serial (a group of police officers) there available to do just that precise thing on semi-final days."

The jury were told the inquests, originally scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, will not finish until July of next year.

The inquests at Birchwood Park, Warrington resumes on Monday.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC Liverpool



8 °C 5 °C

BBC Local Live

    08:33: Station on the agenda Liverpool Echo

    Controversial plans for an electricity substation to service the new Liverpool FC stadium are among items due to be discussed by councillors today.

    08:20: Light rain or drizzle Charlie Slater Weather Presenter

    It's looking like a largely cloudy day with some patchy light rain or drizzle possible at times, especially over higher ground.

    BBC weather

    There's no sign of snow yet, but it may become increasingly windy through the evening with rain becoming more persistent in the north. Top temperatures of 9C (48F).

    08:15: Accident causing delays

    One lane is closed heading out of the city along Leeds Street in Liverpool, due to an accident, according to BBC Travel.

    BBC Travel

    The same accident is causing disruption at the Vauxhall Road junction. A traffic light failure on Speke Boulevard is also causing hold-ups this morning.

    08:08: Fans 'stopped from escaping crush' Emma Stanley BBC News

    A Liverpool fan who survived the Hillsborough disaster has described watching as a police officer tried to push his brother back into the crush.

    Hillsborough 1989

    Terence Mills was at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final with his brother George, who was trying to escape from pen four.

    Stephen Ellis, Sheffield Wednesday's photographer, said police stopped fans climbing over the front of the pens.

    Both men gave evidence on Monday at the new inquests into the disaster, held in Warrington.

    08:00: Tuesday hello Tom Mullen BBC News

    Good morning and welcome to Tuesday's Local Live service from our Merseyside offices. Join us for a day of live news, sport, weather and travel updates from across the region.

    We can't do it without your help. Send us your comments, news, tip-offs or pictures - or just stop by and say hello. You can contact us via via email, Facebook or Twitter.



Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Older ladyAge of happiness

    A Russian photographer documents inspirational seniors who are refusing to grow old


  • Robbie RogersHARDtalk Watch

    Gay footballer Robbie Rogers on locker room homophobia and the ‘pack mentality’ in soccer

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.