WARRINGTON —- David Duckenfield, police match commander on the day of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, has told the inquest here that he gave the fatal order to open Gate C . . . and opened the way for what was to come at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
Duckenfield, now 70, went on to say that he had wrongly later blamed Liverpool fans for forcing open the gate. He acknowledged that the lie had been a “major mistake” that had “added to the trauma” of the families of the victims. His comments were widely reported at the time of the disaster on April 15, 1989, at the Sheffield Wednesday ground when 96 Liverpool fans died.
This was first time the former chief superintendent, on his second day of evidence to the inquest in Warrington, had apologised to the families.
Duckenfield, in answer to questioning for the inquest, admitted that when FA secretary Graham Kelly, his colleague Glen Kirton and Sheffield Wednesday secretary Graham Mackrell entered the police control box at 3:15pm to speak to him, he told them fans had forced open the gate.
‘Fans and police knew’
He added: “I deeply regret what happened on the day. It was a major mistake on my part and I have no excuses. I apologise unreservedly to the families and I hope they believe it is a very sincere apology.”
He said, even at the time, that “the fans and police knew the truth that we’d opened the gates.”
Questioned further by Christina Lambert QC for the coroner Sir John Goldring, he said he was deeply ashamed, embarrassed, greatly distressed about events and his comments were “wrong and completely open to misinterpretation.”
It was something he would regret until “his dying day”. Other witnesses claimed he said fans “stormed” the gates but he could not recall saying that.
He acted without “thinking of the consequences and the trauma, the heartache and distress that the inference would have caused to those people who were already in a deep state of shock and who were distressed.”
He had “heaped upon them further damage when they had got problems enough.”
In reviewing the opening of the gate, to avert a crush outside the ground, Duckenfield described his action as “arguably one of the biggest regrets of my life.”
He said he had not foreseen that fans would head directly to the central tunnel into the Leppings Lane End, exacerbating the crush inside.
Earlier he had admitted making “mistake after mistake” in the preparation for the match following his promotion only two weeks earlier to chief superintendent and conceded his best “wasn’t good enough.”
The inquests continue.
# # # #