Hillsborough jury hears of 1981 crush

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Thirty-eight football fans were injured in a ‘crushing incident’ at Hillsborough stadium eight years before the tragedy which killed 96 people, an inquest into their deaths heard today.

Tottenham Hotspur fans spilled on to the perimeter track at the Leppings Lane end and others climbed fences shortly after the start of the 1981 FA Cup semi-final against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

This morning jurors watched a seven-minute clip of footage from the game.

The new inquest in Warrington heard the 1981 crush arose within a few minutes of the match kicking off.

Four minutes into the game when Spurs striker Steve Archibald scored in front of the Wolves supporters, the crowd in the Spurs end surged forward.

Two minutes later the footage showed a small number of Spurs fans sitting on the perimeter track in front of the Leppings Lane end - scene of the 1989 fatal crush - with some climbing the perimeter fence, assisted by police officers.

After nine minutes the spectators were sitting behind the goal, with numbers quickly increasing.

Shortly afterwards a St John Ambulance worker could be seen carrying a stretcher to assist a spectator.

At half-time, fans ran across the pitch towards the opposite end containing the Wolves supporters before they were eventually corralled by police to sit in front of the north stand.

Sheffield Wednesday said it received reports that 38 people sustained injuries, the inquest heard.

A total of 30 fans were treated by St John Ambulance for minor injuries.

Others were taken to hospital for treatment with two suffering broken arms and one breaking a leg.

Detective Superintendent Neil Malkin, who is leading the criminal investigation into the events of April 1989, compiled a report on the events surrounding the cup tie on April 11 1981.

Det Supt Malkin has already outlined the ‘uncontroversial facts’ of the tragedy, which left 96 Liverpool fans dead following the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

Christina Lambert QC, counsel for the inquest, said evidence relating to the 1981 crushing was heard so the jury could understand the topic of stadium safety and the context in which the layout of the terrace at Leppings Lane was altered by the introduction of radial fences.

The terrace in the West Stand was subsequently divided into three pens by the erection of those fences, she said.

Miss Lambert said immediately before the 1981 cup tie there was congestion at the Leppings Lane turnstiles.

The jury will hear evidence as to the possible reasons for the crowd build-up, including an accident on the motorway which led to a number of fans arriving late for the kick-off.

Det Supt Malkin confirmed Gate C at the turnstiles was opened to alleviate the congestion and a number of fans entered the ground.

It was ‘likely’ the ‘focus of the crush’ in 1981 was in a ‘rather different position’ to the 1989 incident.

The court heard two perimeter gates were opened to let fans out - one by a Superintendent Greenwood.

The jury has heard previously Supt Greenwood was on duty in 1989 and had radioed the control room for the Liverpool-Forest match to be stopped before going onto the pitch to speak to the referee for the game to be abandoned at five and a half minutes past three.

Between 100 and 250 fans were estimated to have moved out of the terrace following the 1981 crush, the jury was told.

Following the match, it emerged that the stipulated capacity may have been exceeded by 335.

During the game a number of Spurs fans who had obtained tickets for the Spion Kop were transferred to the Leppings Lane end.

During later talks among the relevant authorities it emerged there were concerns the capacity of 10,100 for the Leppings Lane terrace was ‘too high’.

Evidence concerning the 1981 semi-final will be explored in greater detail later in the inquest, Ms Lambert told the jury.

She said: “The jury will hear evidence from some of those who attended the match, either as spectators, club employees, turnstilers, stewards or South Yorkshire Police officers.

“A small number of police officers who were on duty in 1981 were also on duty in 1989.”

The hearing in Warrington continues.