Liverpool

Hillsborough inquests: Officer told fan to 'get back in' pen where crush occurred

Hillsborough clock Image copyright PA
Image caption Ninety-six Liverpool fans died as a result of the crush at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough

A Liverpool fan was sworn at by a police officer and told to "get back in" after escaping the Hillsborough disaster crush, a jury has heard.

Alison Willis said she had asked the officer why police were not letting people out and told them: "There's people dying in there".

Ms Willis told the inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans how the police response was "utter chaos".

She said the crush was "unbearable" and she struggled to breathe.

Ms Willis, who bought a ticket for the 1989 FA Cup semi-final from a tout, described how the congestion began to build in the Leppings Lane end of the stadium ahead of kick-off.

'Hard to breathe'

Asked what the pressure was like, Ms Willis, said: "It was unbearable, absolutely unbearable. I've never felt anything like it in my life."

She said it was "terribly" painful and she found it "hard to breathe".

The inquests, held in Warrington, Cheshire, heard how she was helped to climb out of the crush in pen four into a "sterile area" in pen five, before escaping on to the perimeter track.

Ms Willis said an officer used foul language and ordered her to go back into the terraces.

She told the court: "I said 'why wasn't they letting people out - there's people dying in there'. He told me 'get back in you fucking Scouse bastard'."

The court heard Ms Willis had not mentioned the exchange during evidence she gave to the Taylor public inquiry into the disaster, or at the original inquests.

She said: "I think the first time I went to the Taylor inquests (sic), to be honest I don't even think I had got my head around what had happened to me."

Ms Willis said she and four others had been able to get into the Leppings Lane terraces with other Liverpool fans, despite having tickets for the opposite end of the ground.

Image copyright Inquest handout
Image caption The new inquests into the Hillsborough disaster heard a fan describe the police response to the crush as "utter chaos"

Sam Green, a barrister who represents the Police Federation, said: "Officers on the ground, for whatever reason, wholly failed to appreciate that what was unfolding before them was a fatal disaster and that they thought - they were stuck in a mindset - that what they were dealing with was a crowd behaviour issue."

Ms Willis replied: "When I was stood on that running track they could see exactly what I could see.

"If they had been to football matches, they would have known that was not crowd trouble."

Ms Willis, who was living in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, at the time, was later interviewed by West Midlands Police.

She said she was questioned inside a cell in a Mansfield police station.

"I was told there was no room anywhere else," she said. "It was so intimidating. They was very focused on alcohol and on fans' behaviour."

'Police lost control'

A Court of Appeal judge also gave evidence during Tuesday's hearing and said he felt there was no clear police plan to deal with the mounting crowds.

Sir Maurice Kay, who was a Liverpool season ticket holder and a barrister at the time, attended the match with his son.

Pete Weatherby QC, a barrister for 22 bereaved families, asked Sir Maurice: "Is it right that in effect the crowd and the congestion was so large that the police had lost control of it?"

Sir Maurice replied: "That's how it seemed to me."

The judge described the situation around the turnstiles as "uncomfortable" and "potentially dangerous."

The jury also heard from a Sheffield Wednesday fan who had tickets for Hillsborough's South Stand on the day of the 15 April match.

Mark Dawson described the fans outside the Liverpool end of the ground as "abrupt" and some were "drinking heavily".

The jury heard that in a statement he gave in 1989 he said it was "drunken fans who were still on the road that were pushing causing the problems".

Asked if he still maintained that, he replied: "Yes."

The inquests continue.

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