Hillsborough trial: Officer recalls turnstile crush fears

Hillsborough Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ninety-six people died as a result of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster

A former police officer broke down in court as he recalled the Hillsborough disaster to a jury.

Stephen Ellis was an inspector with South Yorkshire Police on duty outside the stadium on the day of the tragedy.

Preston Crown Court heard he was "seriously concerned" about crushing at the turnstiles but then felt "huge relief" when an exit gate was opened.

Match commander David Duckenfield, 74, denies gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans.

Image copyright PA
Image caption David Duckenfield denies gross negligence manslaughter

The former chief superintendent, of Ferndown, Dorset, was in charge during the FA Cup semi-final on 15 April 1989.

Sheffield Wednesday's ex-club secretary Graham Mackrell, 69, denies a charge related to the stadium safety certificate and a health and safety charge.

Mr Ellis's job on the day was to escort Liverpool fans arriving on a "football special" train to the ground, he said.

The jury previously heard that by 14:45 BST, a dense crowd had built up outside the ground with more of the 24,000 Liverpool fans arriving for kick-off. Mounted police and foot patrols were overwhelmed and spectators were being crushed at the turnstiles.

Mr Ellis told the jury he knelt on a police Land Rover and shouted through a loudspeaker at the crowd "to stop pushing", telling fans to "please move back".

He said he told fans "'people are getting crushed at the front... stop being anxious', anything I could think of.

"I may have said that we are delaying kick-off, albeit I had no instructions.

"People were shouting 'Get it delayed', so I told them what they wanted to hear to calm the situation."

At 14:52, the largest exit gate, gate C, was opened and more fans entered the ground, but in the next few minutes fans in pens three and four behind the goal were crushed to death and the match was abandoned.

Image caption The 96 people who lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster

Mr Ellis said: "This part upsets me because I was so concerned for the safety of people in front of Leppings Lane and I had been shouting over this speaker system for 20 minutes."

"I was seriously concerned and then what seemed like seconds, I looked again and there was just about five metres of spectators in front of the turnstiles.

"I had a huge sense of relief, but where have they gone? They went in there quick..."

Former chief inspector Malcolm Edmundson, who was based at the force operations room on the day, was also giving evidence.

He told the court at no stage did he hear the code word to signify a major incident and it was 15:17 before they began treating it as one.

The court heard how his team received requests for dog handlers and more officers as fans were being crushed.

At 15:07, he said a message was sent asking for paramedics to go to the ground.

The trial continues.

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