WARRINGTON: The police match commander at the 1989 Hillsborough disaster has agreed at the reopened inquests that his failure to close a tunnel “was the direct cause of the deaths of 96 people”.
David Duckenfield, giving evidence for a sixth day, also accepted that he “froze” as events unfolded.
He was being questioned by Paul Greaney QC on behalf of the Police Federation of England and Wales.
Mr Duckenfield, now 70, had earlier denied claims he “bottled it” and “panicked” as the disaster unfolded.
The jury was told the former chief superintendent had at least three minutes to “consider the consequences” of opening an exit perimeter gate at the stadium, as a crowd of fans built up outside.
Mr Greaney suggested a child of “average intelligence” could have realised what would happen when the gate, which allowed up to 2,000 fans to enter, was opened.
But Mr Duckenfield said he did “not think of it on the day” because of the pressure he was under. He had “no idea” Liverpool fans would head through the gate for a tunnel which led to the already-packed terraces, he told the jury.
When asked by Mr Greaney if his failure to take steps to close the tunnel entrance was the direct cause of the deaths of 96 people, Mr Duckenfield replied “yes sir”.
Ninety-six Liverpool fans died after crushing at the FA Cup semi final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest held at Hillsborough.
Mr Greaney asked Mr Duckenfield if he had been incompetent in his role on the day of the disaster.
The retired officer answered: “I think it is a view some would agree with sir.”
Mr Greaney accused Mr Duckenfield of “concealing” his full knowledge of the geography of the ground from the jury, which he denied.
When asked by the barrister if he “simply froze”, Mr Duckenfield said he thought it would be “fair to say that we were all in a state of shock.”
It was the match commander’s job to “get past any feelings of shock”, Mr Greaney said.
“Yes, sir, but I am human,” Mr Duckenfield replied.