Hillsborough could have been avoided if match commander had not been replaced, jury told

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A former Sheffield Wednesday FC club secretary told jurors at the Hillsborough inquests today the disaster might not have happened if the police match commander hadn’t been replaced three weeks before the tragedy.

Richard Chester was in the witness box for a second day of questioning 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, he added.

Mr Chester was then quizzed by John Beggs on behalf of retired South Yorkshire Police officers David Duckenfield, Roger Greenwood and Roger Marshall.

He said Chief Supt Mole was ‘the best’.

Mr Beggs asked if Mr Chester would have removed his ‘match command expert’ with direct experience of semi-final matches a matter of weeks before the next big semi-final.

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

He added he felt ‘sorry’ for Supt David Duckenfield who ‘inherited that situation’.

The hearing continues.