Pens contained double capacity

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Almost double the safe number of fans were packed into one pen on the Leppings Lane terraces when disaster struck at Hillsborough, the new inquests into the tragedy heard.

Pen three had an estimated 1,296 fans inside it when the safe capacity was just 678, the jury was told.

Structural engineer John Cutlack, a stadium expert, told the court photos had been used to estimate the number of fans inside the pen on April 15, 1989, before Liverpool’s FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

Mr Cutlack was asked by coroner Lord Justice Goldring to give his expert opinion, following weeks of evidence from witnesses including former Sheffield Wednesday officials and representatives from the fire service, police and Sheffield Council who were responsible for safety on the day.

He said he estimated the correct safe capacity for the whole Leppings Lane terrace to be 5,426, with a safe maximum for pen three of 678 fans and 778 for pen four.

But when the ground was first designated as needing a safety certificate in 1979 due to its size and status, the total capacity for the Leppings Lane terrace in the certificate was given as 2,200 – 1,000 for pen three and 1,200 for pen four.

Christina Lambert QC, counsel for the inquests, asked him: “Those were effectively 50 per cent more than the safe capacity of those pens? That’s before you add in an influx over that capacity?”

Mr Cutlack replied: “Yes.”