‘Unruly and idiotic behaviour’ by Liverpool fans caused the Hillsborough disaster, a former police sergeant has claimed.
Paul Burman told the new inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans he stood by his original statement placing the blame for the disaster on supporters.
Mr Burman was a sergeant with South Yorkshire Police in 1989 and had been on duty in the West Stand above the terraces on the day of the FA Cup semi-final.
He said he stood by his view that the tragedy was caused by ‘the unruly and idiotic behaviour of the Liverpool fans themselves’ and that hooliganism was responsible for the disaster.
Mr Burman also said he stood by his statement in 1989 that the behaviour of the Liverpool fans when events of the tragedy became apparent was the most ‘appalling’ he had ever experienced.
He was asked by barrister Rajiv Menon QC, representing 10 of the bereaved families, whether this was ‘a grotesque exaggeration’.
Mr Burman said: “I’ve worked matches before and this might sound controversial, but the Liverpool fans are the worst I’ve ever had to police - because of all the swearing, all the carry on.”
He said prior to kick off he could smell alcohol on Liverpool supporters.
“It was very apparent that there were a lot of people who had had a lot to drink,” he said.
He said when he saw fans from the upper part of the West Stand assisting people out of the Leppings Lane terrace he did not think there was a problem in the pens, but instead that people were trying to gain access to the higher level.
Mr Burman said he became aware there was a problem when fans started climbing over the perimeter fence and on to the track.
He said people in the West Stand started to say ‘people are dying in there’ but he only realised the gravity of the situation when the police started lifting bodies out of the pens.
He said: “There was a certain amount of aggression from the fans at the back of the pens towards the police officers.”
After the match was stopped, Mr Burman said there was a reaction of ‘pure hatred against the police’.
He said when fans were tearing and breaking the wire mesh of the perimeter fence, he still thought a pitch invasion was happening.
He said: “I didn’t see people dying.”
Mr Burman, who was first-aid trained, stayed in the top stand to stop people going through the emergency gate.
He said he didn’t want a mass exit and as a result of his actions, no one in that section of the ground had been injured.
Under questioning, Mr Burman said it was ‘incorrect’ he was trying to transfer the serious failures of the police in dealing with the situation on to the fans.
He said he did not hear any cries for help from the terraces because of the ‘mayhem’ unfolding.
“It was a terrible situation for everybody,” he said.
The inquests continue.