Hillsborough inquests: Police 'lost control', jury hears

Police control box Image copyright Hillsborough Inquests
Image caption Retired PC Trevor Bichard was one of five officers working in the police control room

Police at Hillsborough "basically lost control", an officer working in the police control box on the day of the disaster told a jury.

Retired PC Trevor Bichard, one of five officers in the control room, was giving evidence at the new inquests.

He also told the jury no-one inside the box was monitoring the central pens where the crush took place.

Ninety-six fans died following the crush at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

'A life of its own'

Mr Bichard told the jury that after 15:00 BST on the day of the disaster, 15 April 1989, police radios were not working and "we had basically lost control".

"It was clear that we weren't controlling what was happening," he said.

"The instruction had gone out to open the gates. Another message had come in about opening another gate.

"The situation had created a life of its own."

He told the inquests he began to receive radio messages about the volume of people outside the gates at the Leppings Lane end of the Sheffield stadium at 14:30.

He turned one of the cameras to look at the crowd outside and estimated there were about 3,000 people there, the jury heard.

'Insistent and desperate'

Mr Bichard, who retired after reaching the rank of chief inspector, said he focused completely on events taking place outside the turnstiles at Leppings Lane, not on the terraces.

He said one of the cameras, camera number five, which was overlooking the Leppings Lane terraces, was "iffy" and having "whiteouts".

He said he was surprised when he overheard a "unique" order by Supt Roger Marshall to open exit gate C at the Leppings Lane end to relieve the crush outside, the jury heard.

Mr Bichard said the instruction was "insistent and desperate" and his voice was "very distressed".

He said there was "no discussion" about where fans would go, and that he had "no idea" why he did not question where fans would go once it was opened.

The gate was opened at 14:52.

"People would come in, choose where they wanted to stand and gradually it would fill out," he said.

"Central pens always fill first and then it moves outwards," Mr Bichard told the inquests.

He said that the concern was about the people outside.

"Leppings Lane was left in these particular type of circumstances to find its own level," he said.

Mr Bichard also told the jury of a brief discussion, lasting only seconds between 14:30 and 14:45, in which senior officers talked about about delaying the kick-off.

"I would describe it as Sgt [Michael] Goddard saying 'The policy is that we don't delay the kick off if the fans have chosen to come late, if there's a road accident" and [Supt] Bernard Murray saying to [Ch Sup] David Duckenfield 'Yes, that's right'," he said.

The inquests continue.

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