Hillsborough Inquests: Officer questioned over response to unfolding disaster

Footage shown to the Hillsborough jury Image copyright Hillsborough Inquests
Image caption Footage shown to the jury showed Supt Greenwood with the referee Ray Lewis

A Hillsborough police commander has been challenged whether he responded in a "prompt, effective and appropriate" manner as the 1989 disaster unfolded.

Stephen Simblet, on behalf of some of the families of the 96 who died, showed the jury a photograph of former Supt Roger Greenwood standing pitchside.

The inquests jury heard a metal fence separated him from fans who died soon afterwards in the worsening crush.

Mr Greenwood said: "I did my best in the circumstances".

'Scene of people dying'

The officer, who was in charge of policing inside the stadium in Sheffield on 15 April 1989, said when he initially saw fans from the first "four or five rows" of the terraces being "squeezed" just after the 15:00 BST kick-off he thought the situation was still "recoverable" and that police could "minimise the risk".

Mr Greenwood was photographed looking into pen three, in which Marian McCabe was pressed up against the front perimeter fence.

The jury heard that the 21-year-old Liverpool season-ticket holder from Basildon in Essex died, as did Inger Shah, a 38-year-old originally from Denmark, who was next to her.

Mr Simblet said the pictures were timed "at the latest 15:02".

Mr Greenwood ran on to the pitch to ask the referee to stop the match between 15:05 and 15:06.

Mr Simblet said: "That's the scene of people who were in the process of dying that you were able to see at or around the time you climbed on to the fence.

"In fact, your leg went up, as you saw on the press photographs, just to the left of where Miss McCabe was standing.

"That was three minutes or so before you stopped the match. Are you saying that your response was prompt and effective and appropriate?"

Mr Greenwood replied: "I stand by what I've said. If I'm in error, I'm in error, but I stand by what I said on the day.

"I have no knowledge of what you're telling me. It disturbs me greatly. I can only say that I did my best in the circumstances."

Who were the 96 victims?

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BBC News: Profiles of all those who died

While showing another picture, Mr Simblet asked: "Are you really saying that you thought at this point that that situation was completely recoverable? It would be sufficient just to stand on the fence and gesture with your arms for people to move back?"

Mr Greenwood said: "That was my judgement."

Earlier, the officer became emotional as he described trying to radio the police control room before he ran on to the pitch.

Mr Greenwood said he first noticed something was wrong just after kick-off when he saw fans coming over the fence between the terrace and the perimeter track.

He told the jury he did not think it was a pitch invasion because "it was too early in the game, so it had to be something else".

'Utter chaos'

Mr Greenwood said the middle to the back of the crowd was watching the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, "seemingly unaware" of what was happening in front of them, and he shouted at them to move back.

The inquests heard the officer stood on an advertising hoarding to get a better view of the terraces and helped pull a fan out of pen three.

But when the situation worsened he decided the match needed to be stopped.

When the jury, sitting in Warrington, was shown footage taken just after 15:00 BST, Mr Greenwood said it was "impossible to portray... what the situation was like".

"It was utter chaos," he added. "It was an emergency - an emergency that I had never witnessed before - and will remain with me and has done for the rest of my life."

At that stage, he told the jury he still thought it was "out of the question" that a number of people were going to die.

Later footage of Mr Greenwood standing by the perimeter fence at 15:11 BST was shown to the court.

By that time, he said he knew police were dealing with "mass casualties".

An extract from a statement Mr Greenwood made in 1990 was also read to the jury.

"I had to concentrate on the disaster itself and deal with it with the resources immediately to hand," it read.

"I expected the control box, who were aware of the seriousness of the situation, to take control. I felt as if I was dealing with the disaster alone."

Mr Greenwood told the court: "That's how I felt - that I was operating in some isolation at that stage".

The inquests were adjourned until Monday.

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