THE NEW Hillsborough inquests into the deaths of dozens of Liverpool fans including a Bromsgrove man, has seen the most senior police officer take the stand so far.
Last week Roger Marshall, former South Yorkshire Police superintendent, was in the witness box at the Warrington based hearings.
Lord Justice Goldring, presiding over the inquests, told the jury Mr Marshall had a key role on the day of the tragedy in 1989, being responsible initially for policing fans outside of the stadium leading up to the FA Cup semi final.
During three days of evidence, he told the hearings he made numerous requests over the radio for extra gates to be opened into the stadium because of the congestion outside. Mr Marshall said police had all but lost control of the crowds and suffered a substantial communication breakdown by about 2.40pm on the
day ahead of the scheduled 3pm match.
The retired officer admitted how much he regretted not calling for the kick off to be delayed.
It was his call that led to match commander David Duckenfield ordering the now infamous Gate C to be opened and Mr Marshall said he regretted not asking for
a ‘reception committee’ within the ground.
In response to questions about his efforts inside of the stadium he admitted feeling responsible for the congestion on the Leppings Lane terrace and went into ‘autopilot’ afterwards.
During the hearings Mr Marshall has repeatedly resisted blaming fellow senior police officers for the tragedy and instead argued there were multiple contributing factors. He admitted to making mistakes himself on the day but insisted he and his colleagues were doing their best in impossible circumstances, claiming there were not enough officers for the operation.
The former superintendent also criticised fans behaviour by saying there was a lot of drinking going on from 11am. He went on to claim some were pushing each other and acting with no regard for anyone else although lawyers representing the families of the 96 victims have refuted that pointing to CCTV which did not show any shoving.
Mr Marshall said he had ‘no choice’ but to ask for extra gates to be opened as he feared someone was going to be killed outside of the ground.
Despite defending his colleagues during questioning he conceded Mr Duckenfield had lied about blaming fans for forcing Gate C open, but added he did not know about it until a year after the incident.
Mr Marshall will return to the stand this week.