Hillsborough trial: Officer 'feared fatal crush at turnstiles'

Hillsborough stadium Image copyright Operation Resolve
Image caption Former police inspector Robert Purdy recalled "screaming" and "panic among fans" outside the stadium

A former police inspector on duty at Hillsborough believed he had been given authority to open an exit gate to alleviate a crush outside the ground, a court has heard.

Robert Purdy told Preston Crown Court he feared people would die at the turnstiles if the situation continued.

He said there was a dramatic increase in pressure at the turnstiles causing "screaming" and "panic among fans".

David Duckenfield, 74, denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 fans.

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

Image copyright PA
Image caption Match commander David Duckenfield denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 fans

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

The jury watched video footage of Mr Purdy being passed a young boy over the crowd outside the turnstiles, shortly after 14:30 BST.

Mr Purdy told the court the pressure at the turnstiles had "dramatically increased" within a matter of minutes and he told his senior officer - Supt Roger Marshall - "quite clearly" that "people would die at the turnstiles if it continued".

He said he believed Supt Marshall told him to open the gates.

Mr Purdy said he understood that to mean he had been given authorisation to open exit gate C, jurors heard.

He said he could not recall if there had been any reference to the police control box, but he said he thought Supt Marshall would inform ground control.

The court heard when he got to the gate at 14:48 it was opened from the inside to eject a fan.

While it was open a number of fans gained entry into the ground, the court heard.

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

The gate opened a second time four minutes later, again not by Mr Purdy, when video footage showed what was estimated to be 2,000 Liverpool fans getting in the ground.

Mr Purdy told the jury he then responded to a call for all officers to go to the pitch.

He said: "I saw the devastation at the front of the pen.

"I suppose something more personal took over. I thought you have to do something... That's when I started pulling people out."

When asked about the effort to get people out of the pens, Mr Purdy was asked: "Did you receive any instructions from senior officers?"

He replied: "No."

The trial continues.

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