Former turnstile operator blames fans for Hillsborough disaster

Hillsborough disaster
Hillsborough disaster
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A turnstile operator working at Hillsborough on the day of the disaster in 1989 told the new inquests their deaths was caused by fans turning up late.

Stephen Copeland was just 19 when he was working at the stadium on the day 96 Liverpool FC fans were killed in the disaster.

Now in his 40s, he told the inquests in Warrington: “It is my opinion that the Liverpool fans themselves were responsible for what happened that day at Hillsborough, by turning up late and turning up without tickets.”

Mr Copeland went on to say he believed the fans who died were fans who had arrived early.

He added: “If Gate C had not been opened there would have been deaths outside the stadium. This was clear from comments made by fans, and the fear on their faces as they were forced through the turnstile that I manned.”

Mr Copeland said he ‘feared for the lives’ of fans, adding: “They were telling me that people had died outside. And I feared for my own life.”

He also said in a previous statement in October last year that the ‘tannoy system was so inadequate I would not be in a position to hear any messages transmitted’, but admitted crowds were very noisy that day.

Meanwhile, a former police sergeant giving evidence blamed South Yorkshire Police for the disaster.

Stephen Payne told the court: “I have always tried to be objective about my own thoughts about the disaster and I broadly agreed with the results of the Taylor Inquiry, which was that the primary blame had to lie with the police.”

Mr Payne also said officers were encouraged to put evidence of drunkenness among fans in their statements about the disaster.

He said: “I can’t remember how it was done – whether it was verbally or in writing – but we were encouraged to ensure we put evidence in of drunkenness or poor behaviour of fans.”

Mr Payne said his ‘own personal probity’ would not have allowed him to make up evidence, and said his statement was a ‘factual account’.