Officer ‘taken completely by surprise’ at gate opening ahead of Hillsborough disaster

The Hillsborough disaster unfolds
The Hillsborough disaster unfolds
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A police sergeant on duty at Hillsborough said he was taken ‘completely by surprise’ as an exit gate to the ground was opened.

John Morgan said there had been a ‘really serious crush’ outside the turnstiles to the ground in the minutes before the 1989 FA Cup semi-final match, at which 96 Liverpool fans died.

Mr Morgan said Exit Gate C to the ground was first opened at 2.48pm, with some supporters rushing in before it was shut.

He said it ‘crystallised’ in his mind the danger of allowing large numbers of people into the concourse without control.

He thought groups would be admitted through Gate C in a controlled manner, with it being shut intermittently.

But he did not anticipate it being left open for several minutes as it was opened a second time.

“I was taken completely by surprise by the gate opening,” he said.

“I’d seen what happened the first time and my understanding was that the gate would be opened intermittently, to allow small numbers through.

“I had no idea that the gate was to be opened widely and left open for a long period of time and allowing hundreds, if not thousands, of people through.”

The court heard Mr Morgan’s statement about the disaster was altered.

His original version said: “There did not appear to be any sort of organised police effort. Many officers were working on their own initiative.”

That was crossed out and a section in handwriting said: “The situation was very confused, but many officers responded individually to identified needs, rendering assistance wherever they could.”

Mr Morgan said it appeared his evidence had been ‘sanitised’.

The inquests continue tomorrow with evidence from David Duckenfield, South Yorkshire’s most senior officer on duty and match commander on the day.