Hillsborough police chief refuses to comment after inquests

David Duckenfield
David Duckenfield
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The police match commander on the day of the Hillsborough disaster has refused to comment after the conclusion of the inquests into 96 deaths.

Former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, who was in charge of policing at Hillsborough football stadium on the day of the disaster in 1989, was tracked down to Heathrow airport after he landed on a plane from San Francisco yesterday.

When asked to comment on recent events, which saw 'unlawful killing' verdicts returned after two-year inquests into the deaths of Liverpool fans, he said he was unable to because of 'criminal inquiries' underway.

The retired police chief could face criminal proceedings over the deaths and has already been interviewed under criminal caution.

Jurors at the inquests ruled that the 96 Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed after being told by the coroner they could reach that conclusion only if they were satisfied that Mr Duckenfield owed a duty of care to those who died, that he was in breach of that duty of care, that his breach caused the deaths and that it amounted to 'gross negligence'.

Approached by a BBC news crew at San Francisco airport and asked for his 'reaction to things', Mr Duckenfield said: "At the present time, due to the ongoing criminal inquiries, I'm afraid that I am unable to comment, and I hope you'll excuse me."

Asked if he had a message for the families, he said: "I've said what I've got to say at the moment."

He added: "When I was at the coroner's court in Warrington I gave a message and I have nothing more to say. I hope you'll excuse me."

When asked at the inquests if his negligence caused the disaster, he said he would not use that word and instead classed it as an 'oversight'.

Mr Duckenfield landed at Heathrow with his wife on a flight from San Francisco and was met by a taxi driver holding up a sign for 'Mr and Mrs Salisbury'.

The Hillsborough disaster unfolded during Liverpool's FA cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest as thousands of fans were crushed at Sheffield Wednesday's ground.

Mr Duckenfield gave the order to open exit Gate C in Leppings Lane, allowing around 2,000 fans gathered outside the stadium to flood into the already packed central pens behind the goal.

A range of individuals and organisations could face charges over the disaster.

Possible offences include gross negligence manslaughter, perverting the course of justice, perjury and misconduct in a public office, according to former director of public prosecutions, Ken Macdonald.

No decisions on possible criminal prosecutions are expected before the end of the year.