Top police officer blamed Liverpool fans for Hillsborough tragedy, jury told

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A former Liverpool FC director has claimed the police officer in charge at Hillsborough stadium on the day of the disaster blamed the club’s supporters for the tragedy.

George Ensor, an ex judge, was a director for Liverpool FC at the time of the 1989 disaster.

Giving evidence to the jury at the new inquests into the deaths of 96 fans, Mr Ensor said Chief Supt David Duckenfield attended a meeting at around 3.20pm on the day of the disaster, along with representatives from Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday and the FA as well as himself, club secretary Peter Robinson and the chairman of Liverpool FC.

Mr Ensor said he found Supt Duckenfield ‘a little hostile’ towards him.

He claimed Supt Duckenfield was ‘quite clearly blaming Liverpool supporters’ when he met with him as the disaster unfolded.

Referring to the meeting in his 1989 statement, Mr Ensor said: “I asked him (Mr Duckenfield) what was the cause of this disaster, and his response was that the Liverpool supporters had failed to heed police warning to arrive early, thus causing additional congestion and pressure on the approach to the ground.”

Mr Ensor told Jonathan Hough, counsel to the inquests: “He was quite clearly blaming the Liverpool supporters. I found him a little hostile towards me. Perhaps I was a little hostile towards him.”

Mr Ensor added: “Here was an allegation that the Liverpool supporters had misbehaved and possibly caused the disaster, and it was something that we were most anxious to investigate, and it caused us considerable anguish, really, to think that perhaps they had been responsible for what subsequently occurred.”

In his original statement Mr Ensor said Mr Duckenfield told the meeting there had been three deaths.

Giving evidence at the inquests in Warrington yesterday, Mr Ensor said: “It had been confirmed there were three deaths, and that was bad enough as it was. It was nothing to the horror of what eventually emerged.”

The jury heard Mr Ensor went onto the pitch immediately after the game was stopped, before attending the meeting with Mr Duckenfield.

Mr Ensor said fans had come up to him and said police opened the gate.

He added: “A number of people came with the same story and I was convinced then that this must have happened and that the gate had been opened, hence people swarmed in, causing pressure.

“It’s obviously folly to let people in uncontrolled, because you can’t direct them to any specific area. If there’s an influx, there could be people without tickets who were let in.

“So it was against all recognised procedures, safety procedures, and sensible discipline at matches.”

John Beggs, representing Mr Duckenfield and two other senior officers Roger Marshall and Roger Greenwood, put it to Mr Ensor that it was in the financial interests of Liverpool FC that their fans were not found culpable.

Mr Ensor said he was just trying to find out what happened, but agreed it would have been in the club’s financial interests.

The hearing continues.