Hillsborough Disaster special feature: Ex-police Inspector gave explosive evidence at inquest
Police inspector Harry White was not a high-profile figure in the days, months and years which followed the Hillsborough Disaster.
But his explosive inquest evidence at Warrington, 26 years after the tragedy, certainly put a different slant on things.
Mr White felt the force ‘abdicated responsibility’ by allowing Liverpool fans to go where they wanted in the standing sections at Hillsborough. He revealed he normally directed fans into the central pens three and four, and when they were full, closed the tunnel off and sent fans down the sides where it was less congested.
But, a fortnight before the tragedy, he said Supt Bernard Murray told him he didn’t concur with the method of herding people into pens and filling gaps.
Mr White told the inquests: “He said: ‘Just let them get in and let the fans just reach their own level’.
“He’d said he was in the best position in the control box to see what was happening in the pens and if they got too full or anything like that, he would take action by using his reserve serials.
“My personal opinion was we were abdicating responsibility for controlling the crowd to the fans themselves, and just leaving them to it.
“All the time that I had ever policed that end, we had always put them in the pens where we wanted them, not just leave it to them to find out.”
Mr White also gave an unusual insight into a convivial meeting at the Niagara police sports bar after the disaster.
There he met up with match commander Chf Supt David Duckenfield, Supt Murray, and other officers.
He said: “I asked Mr Duckenfield in front of everybody, ‘Who opened the gate?’
“He paused, looked around, took stock of his thoughts and he said ‘The gate is down to me. It is only me that can make an order for the gate to be opened.
‘I ordered the gate to be opened.’
“I was quite gobsmacked.”
White said Duckenfield was asked if officers should make notes of the day’s events in their notebooks.
He said the commander replied: “‘Well, they can’t do it in their notebooks because too much time has elapsed. Tell everybody to put everything down about today – thoughts, anything at all – but do it on plain paper’.”
Mr White also dropped a bombshell about a written statement he made at the time of the disaster.
Two pages of notes were deleted when his statement was typed up – although a passage of 20 years was to come and go before he discovered that had happened.
Mr White had described Duckenfield’s matchday briefing as “short and sharp”.
This, among other things, was scrubbed out.