‘Swap was fatal decision’

Brian Mole one of the Police officers in-charge during the Hillsborough disaster
Brian Mole one of the Police officers in-charge during the Hillsborough disaster
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The Hillsborough disaster may not have happened if the South Yorkshire Police match commander in charge on the day hadn’t been replaced three weeks before the tragedy, a court heard.

Former Sheffield Wednesday FC club secretary Richard Chester said that was his opinion, as he gave evidence for a second day at the fresh inquests into the deaths of the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the 1989 disaster.

During his evidence Mr Chester was shown notes made during an interview with investigators from Operation Resolve – the criminal investigation into the disaster – last year.

In them he said had previous match commander Brian Mole been in charge on the day of the disaster, instead of Superintendent David Duckenfield, who had never commanded a football match before, the tragedy would not have happened.

The notes read out in court said: “If... Brian Mole was there, it wouldn’t have happened.”

“That’s my opinion,” added Mr Chester.

Fiona Barton, representing South Yorkshire Police, asked Mr Chester if he thought the disaster would not have happened if plans to install 30 turnstiles with segregated entrances at the Leppings Lane end of the stadium had gone ahead.

He said: “I can’t say that the events of 1989 would not have occurred.”

But it would have made life “an awful lot easier.”

Mr Chester said Chief Supt Mole was ‘the best’.

He added: “As a senior manager I would have wanted the best people in the best positions at all times.”

Mr Chester added he felt ‘sorry’ for Supt Duckenfield.

Mr Chester, who worked at the club from 1984 to 1986, also told the court police agreed to let Liverpool supporters have the larger end of the Sheffield Wednesday stadium, when planning for a potential FA Cup replay three years before the disaster.

He said deciding which team was allocated which end of the stadium was the ‘crux’ of preparing for a match.