Hillsborough inquests: Officer 'heard tunnel closure order'

Leppings Lane end at Hillsborough Image copyright Hillsborough inquests
Image caption Mr Miller made no reference to the radio message in his original statement from 1989

A police officer heard an order to close the tunnel to the central pens at Hillsborough where the fatal crush happened, the inquests have heard.

Sgt Derek Miller told the jury he heard the instruction on his radio, but did not know who it had come from.

Another officer previously told the inquests he could have closed the entrance had he been warned about the number of fans coming into the ground.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died after the terrace crush on 15 April 1989.

At the Warrington court, Mr Miller agreed there were "serious errors" in policing on the day of the disaster.

He said the situation by the Leppings Lane turnstiles 10 minutes before kick-off was "horrendous" with "several thousand" fans trying to get into the stadium for the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

The former officer said while standing on a parapet in Leppings Lane, he could see into the inner concourse.

'Close the gates'

He told the court he noticed there were no police officers at the entrance to the tunnel which led to the central pens.

Mr Miller recalled an order was made to open exit gate C in order to relieve the crush outside the turnstiles and a minute or two later, another order was made to close the gates to the centre pen.

That order could have come from the police control box overlooking the terrace or by an officer by the pitch, he said.

The court was shown Mr Miller's original statement from 1989, in which he made no reference to the radio message.

Asked about the omission, he said: "I don't know why it's not included."

The inquests previously heard from Sgt William Crawford, who said he could have prevented fans going onto the centre pens, but senior officers had made no warning of opening the exit gate to let large numbers in.

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Mr Miller said the decision to close the tunnel gates could be taken by either the match commander or a junior officer, but agreed it was ultimately the responsibility of match commanders in the police control box.

He told the jury he would expect every senior officer to know that blocking the tunnel was a tactic they used to avoid overcrowding on the terrace.

Asked if he thought the reaction from match control to get officers on the pitch was a serious error, Mr Miller said "with hindsight", it was.

The court was also shown an interview Mr Miller gave to Operation Resolve - the ongoing criminal probe into the disaster - in which he said an order was made to "shut the gates at the back of the tunnel".

He was asked whether it was reasonable to accept the reference could have been to the gates at the tunnel or at the turnstiles. Mr Miller responded and said it "could have been but that wasn't my view".

"I could understand if somebody took that view, but I didn't take that view. I thought it was the tunnel," he said.

The inquests are due to resume on Tuesday.

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