Hillsborough Inquests: Police were ‘overwhelmed’

Hillsborough diaster inquests
Hillsborough diaster inquests

Liverpool fans got ‘angry’ and the mood ‘nastier’ as thousands of supporters descended on Hillsborough, a retired policeman told the new inquests.

The mood darkened as ‘frustrated’ fans tried to get into the ground ‘by hook or by crook’ for the 3pm kick-off.

Graham McKay, a former senior officer with South Yorkshire Police, claimed some fans had ‘taken drink’ and were ‘loud, aggressive and utterly selfish’.

Later he supervised the setting up of a temporary mortuary in the stadium gym as the ‘enormity’ of the disaster developed.

Mr McKay told the hearing: “Nothing in my service prepared me for the events of that afternoon.”

Some 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death in the central pens behind the goal on the Leppings Lane terrace as the FA Cup semi final against Nottingham Forest began on April 15, 1989.

The crushing took place after an entry and exit gate, Gate C, was opened at 2.52pm allowing an estimated 2,000 fans crowded at the turnstiles to stream in.

Mr McKay said Gate C opening was ‘like a boiler bursting’ as fans massed at the turnstile and streamed into the ground.

“I was concerned someone was going to die,” he said. “The fans had gone en masse down the tunnel, barriers had collapsed, fans had fallen on top of one another and the tragedy occurred.

“The question of fans pouring down the tunnel had never been perceived.”

Earlier the witness told the inquest he arrived at Leppings Lane about half an hour before kick off.

He said there was a ‘sizeable crowd’ building up and, as kick-off approached, fans were becoming ‘frustrated’.

The witness was asked his impression of police crowd control outside. Mr McKay said: “They were overwhelmed.”

After the gym was hastily converted into a temporary mortuary, the scene was of ‘utter confusion’, he said.

“There were scuffles breaking out around and over bodies, related to grief as I saw it,” he said.

The hearing was adjourned until Monday.