29 May 2014

Hillsborough inquest jury shown crush footage from 1981

An inquest jury sees footage from 1981 – eight years before 96 fans died in the Hillsborough tragedy – showing fans clambering over barriers after a crush at the same football ground in Sheffield.

Above: video shows Spurs fans scale Hillsborough barriers

Thirty-eight fans were reportedly injured in a “crushing incident” at the ground when Tottenham Hotspur fans spilled on to the perimeter track at the Leppings Lane end of the ground and others climbed fences shortly after the start of the 1981 FA Cup semi-final against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Jurors at the inquest watched a seven-minute clip of footage from the game.

1981 crush footage

The inquest in Warrington heard that the crush was at its worst within a few minutes of the match kicking off.

Four minutes into the match and Spurs striker Steve Archibald scored in front of the Wolves supporters, causing the crowd in the Spurs end to surge, the hearing was told.

Two minutes later the footage shows a small number of Spurs fans sitting on the perimeter track in front of the Leppings Lane end – scene of the 1989 fatal crush – and some are climbing the perimeter fence, assisted by police officers.

Nine minutes on the clock and spectators were now sitting behind the goal, with numbers quickly increasing. Shortly after, a St John Ambulance worker is seen carrying a stretcher to assist a spectator.

At half-time, fans run across the pitch towards the opposite end containing the Wolves supporters before they are eventually corralled by police to sit in front of the north stand. Sheffield Wednesday said it received reports that 38 people sustained injuries, the inquest heard.

A total of 30 fans were treated by St John Ambulance for minor injuries. Others were taken to hospital for treatment with two people suffering broken arms and one breaking a leg.

Leppings Lane turnstiles

Detective Superintendent Neil Malkin – the senior investigating officer for Operation Resolve, which is the ongoing criminal investigation into the 1989 disaster – had compiled a report on the events surrounding the cup tie on 11 April 1981.

Detective Superintendent Malkin has already outlined the “uncontroversial facts” covering the background to the tragedy which left 96 Liverpool fans dead following the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

Christina Lambert QC, counsel for the inquest, said the “sole purpose” of the evidence relating to 1981 was for the jury to understand the topic of stadium safety and to understand the context in which the layout of the terrace at Leppings Lane was altered by the introduction of radial fences.

The terrace in the West Stand was subsequently divided into three pens by the erection of those fences, she said. Miss Lambert said that immediately before the 1981 cup tie there was congestion at the Leppings Lane turnstiles.

The jury would hear evidence in due course as to the possible reasons for the crowd build-up, including an accident on the motorway which led to a number of fans arriving late for the kick-off.

Mr Malkin confirmed that Gate C at the turnstiles was opened to alleviate the congestion and a number of fans entered. It was “likely” that the “focus of the crush” in 1981 was in “a rather different position” to the 1989 incident.

Two perimeter gates were opened to let fans out – one by a Superintendent Greenwood who, the jury has previously heard, was also on duty in 1989 when he radioed the control room for the Liverpool-Forest match to be stopped before going onto the pitch to speak to the referee for the game to be abandoned.

Capacity ‘too high’

In 1981, between 100 and 250 fans were estimated to have moved out of the terrace following the crush, the jury was told.

Following the match, it emerged that the stipulated capacity may have been exceeded by 335. During the game a number of Spurs fans who had obtained tickets for the Spion Kop were transferred to the Leppings Lane end.

Among concerns voiced in later talks involving the relevant authorities was that the capacity of 10,100 for the Leppings Lane terrace was “too high”.

Evidence concerning the 1981 semi-final will be explored in greater detail later in the inquest, Ms Lambert told the jury.

She said: “The jury will hear evidence from some of those who attended the match, either as spectators, club employees, turnstilers (turnstile operators), stewards or police officers from South Yorkshire Police.”

The hearing in Warrington continues.