Families of the 96 people who died in the Hillsborough disaster wept as they were forced to relive details of the tragedy.
Lord Justice Sir John Goldring – the coroner appointed for the new inquests into the tragedy at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium – described it as ‘the worst ever disaster at a British sporting stadium’ as he outlined a minute-by-minute timeline of the key events of Saturday, April 15, 1989.
The victims included a father and son, three pairs of brothers, a pair of sisters and friends who had gone to watch the FA Cup semi final between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool FC.
Details of the chaotic scenes which unfolded and the response of the emergency services were read out.
Jurors were told of the fatal crush which built up on and around the terraces at the ground’s Leppings Lane end as kick off approached.
The court was told South Yorkshire Police planned their operation around keeping rival supporters apart because of concerns about hooliganism, rather than focusing on crowd control.
The coroner said: “It may be said by some this was reasonable, given the extent of serious soccer hooliganism at the time.
“It may be said by others police planning was too focused on problems of disorder and there was insufficient focus on crowd safety.”
He said jurors would need to consider the actions of Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, South Yorkshire Police’s match commander, who, in the tragedy’s aftermath, told the Football Association Liverpool fans had forced open a gate into the ground, when, in fact, he had ordered it should be opened.
Jurors were told they would have to consider whether senior police and other emergency services staff could have dealt with the incident differently.
The coroner said that, following the tragedy, a morgue was set up in the stadium gym. Photos of the victims were taken and put on a board at the entrance where family members were taken to identify the victims.
Bereaved relatives were not allowed to see their loved ones. Instead, they were quizzed about the fans’ behaviour, before being taken to a boys’ club opposite Hammerton Road police station used as a reception centre.
He said: “It does not need me to say how awful it must have been.”
The inquests continue.