Hillsborough inquests: Police commander 'blamed fans'

Hillsborough disaster Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The new inquests are being held in Warrington

The police match commander at Hillsborough was "quite clearly blaming Liverpool fans" in the hours after the tragedy, the inquests have heard.

George Ensor, then Liverpool FC solicitor and director, said Ch Supt David Duckenfield told him fans had forced open a gate at the ground.

The jury heard Mr Duckenfield also said to him fans had "failed to heed police warnings" about turning up early.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died as a result of 1989's FA Cup match crush.

'Chaos and confusion'

The inquests jury heard that, after seeing the crush at the game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, Mr Ensor and Liverpool FC secretary Peter Robinson left the directors' box and went on to the pitch.

He said there was "chaos and confusion" on the field and "there was clearly no-one in command, no one who appeared to be in authority".

Mr Ensor told the jury Liverpool fans told him and Mr Robinson the police had allowed them into the ground after opening a gate.

He recalled going to a meeting in Hillsborough's boardroom, attended by Ch Supt Duckenfield in uniform, as well as Mr Robinson and senior figures from the FA, Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest shortly after the disaster.

Mr Ensor, Liverpool's solicitor for 20 years from 1975, told the court he recalled the chief superintendent saying Liverpool supporters had forced the gate open.

Police warnings 'ignored'

He told the jury: "It could only have been Ch Supt Duckenfield because there was nobody else at the meeting as far as I was concerned who would have any knowledge of what had gone on at the Leppings Lane end."

The jury heard that after the meeting Mr Ensor said he asked Mr Duckenfield what the cause of the disaster was.

"His response was that the Liverpool supporters had failed to heed police warnings to arrive early, thus causing additional congestion and pressure on the approach to the ground."

The jury has previously heard Ch Supt Duckenfield told FA officials Liverpool fans had forced open a gate on the day of the crush.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ninety-six fans died as a result of a crush at the FA Cup semi-final

The inquests have also earlier heard former Supt Roger Marshall agreed match commander Ch Supt Duckenfield had "told the lie" by suggesting this.

Glen Kirton, who was the Football Association's press chief in 1989, has also told the jury previously Ch Supt Duckenfield made the remark inside the police control box at around 3:15pm.

Mr Ensor said: "What's always upset me [is] that he told us basically an untruth."

The jury heard Mr Ensor and Mr Robinson went to find the gate allegedly forced open after the meeting.

Gate 'not damaged'

They were shown to exit gate C, which the jury previously heard had been opened on police orders at 14:52.

About 2,000 Liverpool fans went in through the gate, many heading towards a tunnel leading into the central pens on the Leppings Lane terraces.

Mr Ensor said: "It was closed when we saw it and it didn't show any signs of damage and we were reassured... we were pleased to see that the allegation made [about the fans] didn't seem to have any substance."

Questioned by Ch Supt Duckenfield's barrister, John Beggs QC, Mr Ensor accepted he was "at no time outside Leppings Lane".

Mr Beggs then said: 'So you have no direct evidence to give us as to how the Liverpool supporters behaved outside Leppings Lane, have you?"

The inquests in Warrington continue.

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