Hillsborough Inquests: Police chief told 'wicked lie' about fans forcing gate

CCTV of fans at Hillsborough Image copyright Hillsbrough Inquests
Image caption Former superintendent Roger Marshall said he avoided media coverage of the disaster

A police chief told a "wicked lie" by suggesting Liverpool fans forced open a gate ahead of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, the inquests heard.

Former superintendent Roger Marshall agreed match commander Ch Supt David Duckenfield had "told the lie" on the day of the crush.

But Mr Marshall said it was "utter rubbish" he and Mr Duckenfield colluded to cover up what happened.

He said he avoided media coverage of the disaster, in which 96 fans died.

The Liverpool fans died as a result of the crush at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on 15 April.

Image copyright other
Image caption Ninety-six Liverpool fans died following a fatal crush at Hillsborough stadium in 1989

A public inquiry, led by Lord Justice Taylor, was set up in the aftermath of the disaster to establish the cause.


Mr Marshall was shown footage from the day which was timed at 16:42 when he was inside the police control box with other officers.

Peter Wilcock QC, who represents a group of Hillsborough families, said by that time "David Duckenfield had told the lie of the gate being forced".

Mr Marshall, who was stationed outside the Leppings Lane end, replied: "Yes, but I can tell you that the first I knew of that was at Lord Justice Taylor's inquiry.

"In fact, I was surprised and not a little shocked hearing that. I really was."

Mr Marshall was asked whether "it was a wicked thing to say" and he said: "It wasn't... Yes, I think it was. Yes."

The former senior officer told the inquests Mr Duckenfield did not say "Liverpool fans forced the gates open" to him while he was in the police control box at Hillsborough.

During the hearing, Mr Wilcock asked whether Mr Duckenfield made a "fundamental mistake in not taking any steps to block the tunnel".

Image copyright Hillsborough Inquests
Image caption Former superintendent Roger Marshall was stationed outside the turnstiles at the Leppings Lane end

Mr Marshall replied: "That may be true, but I share that responsibility of that because, as I said to you not once, but twice, that it is a profound regret on my part that I did not say to control 'There's a mass of people coming through the gates - please ensure there's a reception committee to meet them'.

"So it's not just David Duckenfield and Bernard Murray's responsibility, it's my responsibility as well."


The jury was told Assistant Chief Constable Walter Jackson had summoned Mr Marshall to the control box to ask him what happened.

He then travelled with Mr Duckenfield to South Yorkshire Police headquarters where they saw the then chief constable, Peter Wright, before being sent home.

Mr Marshall said: "The first time I got to know about the 'lie' was certainly at the public inquiry because I didn't read the newspapers and I didn't watch the telly."

Mr Wilcock said it was "incredible" that Mr Marshall did not see any of the "massive publicity that you must have known was a lie".

Mr Marshall said he saw a police counsellor who told him not to read the papers or watch the television.

He added any idea there had been "collusion" between he and Mr Duckenfield "to cover this up" was "rubbish, utter rubbish".

During questioning by Mr Wilcock, Mr Marshall was also accused of refusing to criticise officers in the police control box for "fear of being thought of as disloyal".

Mr Marshall said: "I really don't wish to criticise my colleagues. My colleagues - we were under enormous pressure at that time.

"I can't speak for what was going on in their minds. I can't speak for whatever discussions took place in the control room."

'Many different causes'

The jury was also shown a letter written by Mr Marshall's solicitor, Vincent Hale, in June 1990.

It was written in response to a complaint made by three families, related to the victims Sarah and Victoria Hicks, John McBrien and Richard Jones.

In one paragraph Mr Hale wrote: "There could certainly be a backlash, if not against the complainants themselves, who happen to represent totally innocent victims, against some of the other dead fans who were not free from blame."

Mr Marshall agreed that the language in the letter was "offensive".

Mr Wilcock said: "Mr Marshall, for 25 years many families, including Doreen Jones, who I represent, have lived with the smear that her son... was some how responsible for his own death.

"Will you take the opportunity now to apologise to her for suggesting anything other than the fact he was a totally innocent victim of this disaster, as was each and every person who died. Will you take this opportunity now?"

Mr Marshall replied: "I will sir, yes."

Mr Wilcock continued: "Will you apologise to the families of the people who died at Hillsborough for the way you have dealt with their complaints and their attempts to clear the names of their loved ones over the last 25 years? Will you apologise for that please?"

Mr Marshall said: "I will sir. But I would add the caveat that the Hillsborough disaster had many, many different causes and the evidence I have given over the years and in these proceedings, I have tried to approach that in a moderate, reasoned, careful and sensitive fashion."

The inquests continue.

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