Jurors relive the horror of April ‘89

Lord Justice Goldring.

Lord Justice Goldring.

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Cloudy grey skies and showers met the Hillsborough inquest jurors as they stood at the exact spot most of the Liverpool fans who died lost their lives.

The 11-strong jury left the courtroom in Warrington for the day yesterday to visit the stadium in Sheffield.

A police officer stands in front of members of the press outside the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield as jurors on the inquest into the deaths of 96 Liverpool football fans killed in the Hillsborough disaster visited the stadium

A police officer stands in front of members of the press outside the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield as jurors on the inquest into the deaths of 96 Liverpool football fans killed in the Hillsborough disaster visited the stadium

Traffic came to a standstill as police closed Leppings Lane.

Hooked up to wireless headphones, the jurors were guided by coroner Lord Justice Goldring to some of the key locations in the ground, including pens three and four, where the crush occurred, as well as the tunnel leading into them.

Huddling under umbrellas, jurors were also taken to the site of the former gym used as a makeshift morgue on the day of the disaster – now the Sheffield Wednesday shop. Britain’s worst sporting disaster unfolded at the stadium on April 15, 1989, during Liverpool’s match against Nottingham Forest, when thousands of fans were crushed in the ground’s Leppings Lane terrace.

As they stood in pens three and four of the Leppings Lane end, the jury was told the area had ‘fundamentally changed’.

A police officer stands in front of members of the press outside the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield as jurors on the inquest into the deaths of 96 Liverpool football fans killed in the Hillsborough disaster visited the stadium.  Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

A police officer stands in front of members of the press outside the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield as jurors on the inquest into the deaths of 96 Liverpool football fans killed in the Hillsborough disaster visited the stadium. Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

There are now seats where it was once standing only, and fences have been removed.

Orange tape illustrated the height of the fence dividing the two pens, where hundreds of fans had gathered for the match.

A cane was placed at the front of the terrace to show the height of the fence between the pitch and pens. The coroner took the jury up either side of the seating area, on to the pitch and above it, to a raised stand so they could view the pens from all angles.

They also saw the current police control box, which is much larger and in a slightly different location to its 1989 counterpart.

Lord Justice Goldring and the jury will visit Hillsborough tomorrow. Neil Jones/PA Wire

Lord Justice Goldring and the jury will visit Hillsborough tomorrow. Neil Jones/PA Wire

Beneath the police box, jurors were shown an unaltered section of terrace so they could see how the stands looked 25 years ago. Markings from where crush barriers had been removed remained.

Next the jurors were taken around the pitch perimeter, past the current players’ tunnel and along rows of empty seats, decorated in Sheffield Wednesday’s blue and white colours.

Apart from the coroner’s narration, the stadium was silent.

The jury was then taken to the Sheffield Wednesday shop – once the site of a gymnasium – which on the day of the disaster was used to temporarily store the bodies of the dead.

Earlier, two coaches, escorted by police outriders and cars, transported the jury, counsel, court staff and coroner to the stadium.

Lord Justice Goldring showed them The White Horse pub where some Liverpool supporters went before the match.

The former Wadsley Bridge railway station was also pointed out, because Liverpool supporters accompanied by police had made their way to the stadium from there.

Cones and orange tape were laid out to illustrate the layout of the entrance in 1989.

Afterwards the jurors took route ambulances took in 1989 to the Northern General Hospital, where 88 casualties were taken.

After passing the Hillsborough memorial on the south side of the stadium, the coaches drove past the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, where 77 casualties were taken.

The hearing continues next week.

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