Hillsborough Inquests: Officer 'under pressure' over gate

Former Supt Roger Greenwood arriving at the Hillsborough Inquests
Image caption Former Supt Roger Greenwood opened a pitch-side gate in the perimeter fence during the 1981 semi-final

The senior officer who stopped the 1989 FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough said he felt under pressure because he had opened a gate at an earlier FA Cup semi at the ground because of overcrowding.

Ex-Superintendent Roger Greenwood said relations between Sheffield Wednesday and police were "strained" after he opened the gate at the 1981 semi-final.

He said the club did not host another semi-final until six seasons later.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died as a result of a crush at the match in 1989.

Mr Greenwood has been giving evidence at the new inquests into their deaths.

He had been an inspector at the 1981 match between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

'Under some pressure'

During the first half of the match 38 Spurs fans were injured in a crush caused by overcrowding.

Mr Greenwood said: "The crowd at the front of the terrace were compacted. I can still see the image of a girl today.

"They were under some pressure at that stage. The pressure was coming from the back."

He opened a pitch-side gate in the perimeter fence to relieve the pressure.

But he said the relationship between Sheffield Wednesday and the police became "certainly quite strained after I had opened that gate".

By the time of the 1989 match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest he had been promoted to superintendent and was the ground commander for that year's semi-final, in charge of policing inside the stadium.

Jonathan Hough QC, on behalf of the coroner, asked: "Did you have a plan for what to do before there was serious and obvious crushing, when it was apparent or if it became apparent that the pens were overfull?"

Mr Greenwood said if there was a "safety consideration" he "would do what I did in 1981 and open the gates".

But he added: "The pressure that was exerted on myself in 1981 as a result of doing that - both from, I have to say, the police and, more than that, from the club - because they didn't get another semi-final until 1987 they put a lot of pressure on people in terms of opening those gates because you can't stop the tap - the flow keeps coming."

'It's a weakness'

Mr Greenwood is the second of the Hillsborough match commanders to give evidence at the new inquests, being held in Warrington.

Former superintendent Roger Marshall, who was in charge of policing Liverpool fans outside the ground, appeared in the witness box in September.

The jury also heard Mr Greenwood thought "part of the job" of the police officers stationed on the perimeter track in front of the Leppings Lane terraces was to "monitor those in the pens to prevent... overcrowding".

Mr Hough said: "Yet it's not a task you appear to have mentioned in your briefing to officers on the Friday [before the match]."

Mr Greenwood replied: "No, I think that's correct. If that's a weakness, it's a weakness.

"But what I would say to you is that those officers were there week-in, week-out, and were practised."

He said the officers on the perimeter track were Sheffield-based and would not need the same briefing "that you might have been giving to officers from Doncaster or Rotherham or Barnsley".

The inquests continue.

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