Hillsborough Inquests: Roger Marshall's 'regret' over not delaying kick-off

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Media captionFormer Supt Roger Marshall tries to deal with crowds outside the Hillsborough stadium

A former police superintendent has told the Hillsborough inquests of his "profound regrets" at not requesting that kick-off be delayed.

Roger Marshall said he could have asked for a delay given the number of fans who were "besieging the turnstiles" at the Leppings Lane end of the stadium.

He agreed it would have alleviated "the anxiety and frustration" of supporters trying to get into the ground.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died after the crush at the FA Cup semi-final.

Mr Marshall was stationed outside the turnstiles as a large crowd of Liverpool supporters built up, the jury in Warrington heard.

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Image caption Ninety-six Liverpool fans were killed at Hillsborough

He said: "I could have requested a delay to the kick-off.

"I can tell you it's one of the most profound regrets of my experience at Leppings Lane on 15 April that I did not.

"I think it would have been possible for me to seek a delay in kick-off given the number who were besieging turnstiles at 14:40," he said.

Mr Marshall made several radio requests for three exit gates to be opened as congestion built up outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles ahead of the kick-off and is said to have told somebody would be "killed if the gates weren't opened".

He said he thought he made four attempts from 14.47 to contact the police control box over the radio up until 14.52 when exit Gate C was finally opened.

"When I went through into the concourse and realised the awfulness of what had happened, I was on autopilot. Because I linked the awful events on the terraces directly with my opening of the gates and I was really ... I really had to dig deep to bring any sort of, shall we say leadership, to that situation."

'Alarm bell'

Counsel for the inquest, Christina Lambert QC, said: "You felt a strong sense of responsibility?"

He replied: "I certainly did, yes."

Mr Marshall said he estimated roughly that between 200 and 250 fans had been asking for spare tickets before the match.

Ms Lambert asked: "Were you aware there was a club system whereby those in the club office can pretty quickly indicate how many fans were yet to go through the turnstiles?"

He said: "I don't think I was aware of that. Not until after the disaster. I'm not sure about that."

Ms Lambert continued: "If you had been aware at 14:15 that actually there were about 6,900 fans yet to go through turnstiles A to G for taking up their position on the terraces, would you have been concerned?"

Mr Marshall replied: "I think it probably would have rung an alarm bell, yes."

He said he was aware that the build-up of the crowd grew progressively from 14:30 and said he had asked the crowd to stop pushing from 14:35 onwards.

Image caption Roger Marshall joined South Yorkshire Police as a cadet in 1960

Mr Marshall said he believed it was people joining the back who were responsible for the pushing.

He said: "It was becoming an extremely worrying situation. The situation was becoming unmanageable, if I'm honest."

At that point he said he went into the middle of the crowd.

"I was waving my arms about, gesticulating."

He said he did not give any instructions to any officers and did not believe they would have heard him even if he had done.

"You could not hear yourself speak in there," he said.

Ms Lambert said: "What were you trying to achieve?"

Mr Marshall replied: "Trying to stop people pushing."

'Middle of a battle'

Looking at aerial footage from that moment, he was asked to compare that view to his perception of what was confronting him on the ground.

He said: "You can see the mounted men. They are doing their best aren't they but people are diving past them.

"The perception I got at that time was that we were virtually in the middle of a battle that we were not going to win.

"Nobody is using any self-restraint whatsoever."

At 14:40 Mr Marshall, who said in hindsight that he wished he had tried to obtain an aerial view earlier, climbed onto the parapet of the bridge over the River Don, outside the stadium, and said it was the first time he got "a really good view" of the area.

Ms Lambert said: "Was this the time you became really anxious?"

He said: "The congestion. The fact that people were shoving and pushing. They did not need to do so but they did."

The barrister asked him if he thought at that point the fans were going to get inside the stadium in time for kick-off.

He said: "Surprisingly no. They had no chance but at the time I thought possibly they could get in."

The jury heard Mr Marshall had "extensive" experience of policing football in South Yorkshire and at the Hillsborough stadium.

He policed Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough ground as an inspector in the 1970s and was the ground commander for the FA Cup semi-final a year before the disaster.

"In the late 70s and 80s, I think it's fairly common knowledge that football was in a fairly parlous state in terms of hooliganism," Mr Marshall said.

The key strategy was segregating supporters and maintaining that on the route to the stadium and in the ground, he told the jury.

Mr Marshall said: "The strategy also was to obtain as much intelligence as possible in terms of the past record of visiting fans and to match an appropriate police deployment to that strategy."

He told the jury the idea of putting cordons in Leppings Lane to filter fans had been discussed after the disaster.

He said that would have been a "difficult exercise" because of the houses and businesses nearby and because Leppings Lanes was a major road and bus route.

Mr Marshall worked closely with Ch Supt Brian Mole who was the overall match commander at Hillsborough until March 1989, when Ch Supt David Duckenfield was appointed.

Mr Marshall described Mr Mole as an "extremely capable football commander" and said Mr Duckenfield was a "steady, good police officer".

The inquests continue.

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