Hillsborough pen was packed to 'twice' its safe capacity, says expert

Hillsborough inquests evidence picture of pen 3 John Cutlack said pen number three should only have held 678 fans

One of the pens at Hillsborough stadium where fans were crushed was packed to almost twice its safe capacity on the day of the tragedy, inquests heard.

Giving evidence, structural engineer John Cutlack said it would have been difficult to move around the terraces.

The ensuing crush in two pens at the Leppings Lane end on 15 April, 1989 led to the death of 96 Liverpool fans.

Mr Cutlack said those pens had informal capacities of 1,000 and 1,200, almost double the safe limit he calculated.

The expert witness told the jury in Warrington that his analysis of a photograph from the day of the disaster showed 1,296 people inside pen number three, which he estimated should only have held 678 spectators.

The jury has not heard a figure for how many spectators may have been inside pen four.

'Barriers too low'

On Tuesday, Mr Cutlack had told the inquests the safe capacity of the Leppings Lane terraces should have been 5,425, not the 7,200 stated on the ground's safety certificate.

Start Quote

The fact that the capacities were too high led to the possibility of over-crowding”

End Quote John Cutlack Structural Engineer

He stated the safe capacity was affected by the height and lay out of crush barriers on the terrace.

Four of the 13 barriers inside the pens were "substantially too low" and the gaps in between some were too large.

The pens were part of the west terrace at the Leppings Lane end of the ground which was given an official capacity of 7,200 when Hillsborough's safety certificate had been issued in 1979.

Terraces on the Leppings Lane end Two pens in the Leppings Lane end should have had lower capacities said Mr Cutlack

But Mr Cutlack said the official limit was based on an "extremely basic calculation".

'Capacity too high'

Questioned by Christina Lambert QC, lead counsel to the inquests, he was asked: "Bearing in mind all that you have discussed thus far, Mr Cutlack, what is your view as to whether or not the condition of the west terrace was reasonably safe?"

Who were the 96 victims?

Eight of the Hillsborough victims, CW from top left: Paul Clark, Stephen Copoc, Tracey Cox, Jon-Paul Gilhooley, Steven Fox, Vincent Fitzsimmons, Christopher Edwards

He replied: "The fact that the capacities were too high led to the possibility of over-crowding - certainly in those pens three and four.

"That, in turn, implies that pressures could be created within the crowd that may have been higher... than the loads that the crush barriers... were expected to withstand."

He said the safety certificate should have been amended and individual capacities calculated for each pen.

The jury also heard that seven turnstiles were handling 10,100 fans leading into the west and north west terraces at Hillsborough.

Mr Cutlack said, based on a standard rate of accessing the ground, this meant it would have taken two hours for the fans to enter.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC Liverpool



Min. Night 1 °C

BBC Local Live

    18:00: Good evening

    Local Live has finished for the day. Join us from 08:00 tomorrow for more news, sport, travel and weather updates.

    17:54: Tonight's forecast Eno Eruotor Weather presenter, North West Tonight

    Snow showers continue into the evening and it's going to feel bitterly cold.

    the forecast

    The wind chill factor will make highs of 4C (39F) feel colder.

    17:47: Bootle road closure BBC Travel

    A crash involving two lorries means the A5058 Miller's Bridge in Bootle is closed and there is queuing traffic in both directions from the A5036 Regent Road junction and the A567 Stanley Road junction, drivers are being warned.

    17:45: Burglar to pay 1% of ill-gotten gains Chester Chronicle

    A burglar who was part of a gang who pocketed almost half a million pounds during a year-long crime spree raiding farms and even stealing canoes for disabled children - will pay back less than 1% to victims.

    17:40: RMS Lusitanian sinking remembered

    A lifejacket, a shoe belonging to a small child, and letters from survivors will be some of the items on show as Merseyside Maritime Museum remembers the sinking of RMS Lusitania.


    Lusitania: life, loss, legacy - a new exhibition - opens at Merseyside Maritime Museum on 27 March.

    The ship was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland by a German U-boat in 1915, killing 1,198 people. More information is here.

    17:33: Anger after school meeting cancelled Wirral Globe

    Parents and students have hit out after a meeting was cancelled, which had been aimed at giving them the chance to have their say on plans to temporarily suspend a Wirral sixth form next year.

    17:24: 'House of sin' Tom Mullen BBC News

    John Lennon's Aunt Mimi, with whom he lived in Menlove Avenue, is said to have referred to his mother Julia's home - which is going up for auction - as "the house of sin".

    Lennon's sisters Julia and Jackie lived in the three-bedroom council house alongside their mother and her partner John "Bobby" Dykins - who never married.

    17:09: Fugitive wanted for cash machine explosions Liverpool Echo

    A Merseyside fugitive wanted over a string of 31 gas bomb attacks on UK cash machines is suspected of blowing up another 14 ATMs in Spain.

    16:59: News on the hour Graham Whyte BBC Radio Merseyside

    A teachers union says students have been "disadvantaged" by changes to GCSEs - as the latest league tables show schools in Knowsley are ranked bottom in the country.

    Join us for more on this story and others at 17:00.

    16:52: Traffic-busting bridge backed Emma Stanley BBC News

    A new bridge is to be built across the Manchester Ship Canal in Warrington.

    It is hoped the high-level bridge, from the A56 Chester Road, will provide traffic relief to the town centre and open up land for development.

    Manchester Ship Canal

    The plan has been approved after the government confirmed it would invest an extra £15m into Cheshire and Warrington between 2016 and 2021.

    16:40: Inmate found dead in cell Graham Whyte BBC Radio Merseyside

    The Ministry of Justice has confirmed a prisoner has been found dead in his cell at Liverpool Prison. An investigation is underway.

    16:13: Honda deal is 'ultimate dream' BBC Sport

    Jenny Tinmouth has described becoming a member of the Honda Racing team for the 2015 British Superbike Championship as her "ultimate dream come true".

    Jenny Tinmouth

    The 36-year-old from Ellesmere Port became the first female to compete in the series in 2011 and remains the only woman to have done so.

    16:03: News on the hour Megan Key BBC Radio Merseyside

    A senior ambulance officer says two ambulances crashed as they tried to get on and off the pitch at the Hillsborough disaster.

    According to Alan Hopkins, who was South Yorkshire's deputy chief ambulance officer, a new wheelchair ramp had made the access onto the pitch narrower.

    We will hear from our reporter at the Hillsborough inquests, Ben Schofield, in the 16:00 news.

    15:51: Angela Eagle v William Hague

    Wallasey's Labour MP Angela Eagle and William Hague MP drew laughs from the Commons during an exchange in business questions.

    Shadow leader of the House Eagle highlighted Liberal Democrat Baroness Kramer's unfortunate gaffe while on a visit to Taipei. "She gave the city's mayor a watch, which is taboo in local culture because it suggests the recipient's time is running out. She should have given it to her party leader."

    Angela Eagle in the Commons

    William Hague got laughs of his own as he responded to Eagle. He said Baroness Kramer's watch gaffe wasn't the best gift of the week.

    That honour went to Ed Miliband, who received "the gift of being defended by the noble lord Lord Kinnock". Hague said this was a "sure sign of impending disaster", to the mirth of Tory backbenchers.

    15:41: Gossip on Reds transfers BBC Sport

    Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is considering summer deals for Hannover midfield pair Lars Stindl, 26, and Leonardo Bittencourt, 21, according to the Daily Star.

    There is more about Rodgers midfield targets in today's Gossip column.

    15:29: Snow go for passengers Sallie George BBC News

    tweets: Six hours on this plane and we are now getting off, having moved not one inch. #ManchesterAirport #snow

    We were originally due to be on the delayed 09:15 to Newark but were among other passengers stranded on the runway at Manchester Airport. We were told earlier our flight would be the first scheduled departure at 13:00 but it has not left yet.

    More information is on the severe weather live page we're running for the North West.

    15:13: Film club starts tomorrow

    The hills are alive - because Warrington Borough Council has tweeted St Werburgh's film club is taking place tomorrow and The Sound of Music, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, will be its first showing.

    14:54: News on the hour Megan Key BBC Radio Merseyside

    Warrington's going to get a new high-level bridge spanning the Manchester Ship Canal.

    The government's given the go-ahead for the £70m project following today's announcement of funding for Local Enterprise Partnerships across the country.

    The bridge should relieve pressure at the Bridge Foot bottleneck and open up land for redevelopment. More in our 15:00 bulletin.

    14:38: Disability champion retires Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News

    A crusading health and disability champion who founded Britain's biggest stroke club is leaving Halton.

    14:23: Coutinho hopes to score more

    Reds No.10 Philippe Coutinho tells his club's website he has been staying behind for extra training at Melwood to work on adding more goals to his game.

    Philippe Coutinho
    13:58: Snow-where to be seen

    Not everyone has been experiencing a whiteout as this picture and comment from a BBC colleague Alan Clayton explains.

    Wirral rain

    Aye, the snow is fairly taking its grip here in Wirral, he writes.

    13:40: Diverted to Liverpool Airport BBC Radio Merseyside

    Seven flights have now been diverted from Manchester to Liverpool Airport because of snow. The runway has been closed.

    Snow at Manchester Airport
    13:17: Speke bus 'assault' appeal

    CCTV stills have been released of two men Merseyside Police wish to speak to after an alleged assault at a bus stop in Speke.

    The two men police wish to speak to

    The force released pictures of these two men after a report of an altercation involving two man at the bus stop on Speke Boulevard near to the junction of Speke Road, at about 10:10 on Saturday 17 January.

    The victim, who suffered head injuries, was taken to hospital by ambulance but did not wait for treatment.

    12:54: Ex-Tranmere striker returns Nathan Middleton BBC Sport

    Tranmere Rovers have re-signed striker Iain Hume on a six-month contract.

    Iain Hume Iain Hume scored five goals in 16 appearances for Kerala Blasters

    Hume came through the youth system at Tranmere and made 176 appearances, scoring 37 goals.

    The 31-year-old, who also had stints at Leicester, Barnsley, Preston, Doncaster and Fleetwood, is the third arrival at Prenton Park this week after Adam Dugdale and Josh Thompson.

    12:42: Beatles mum's home under hammer Tom Mullen BBC News

    A former home of Beatles legend John Lennon's mother is to be sold at auction.

    The semi-detached property on Blomfield Road, in Allerton, Liverpool was home to Julia Lennon in the 1950s and 1960s.

    John Lennon with mother, Julia

    Although John lived with his aunt Mimi in Menlove Avenue, he would regularly visit his mother and practise playing his guitar at her house.

    It is due to go under the hammer with a guide price of £120,000 at Liverpool Town Hall on 31 March.

    12:25: Secondary school league tables

    League tables for secondary schools across Merseyside are published today.

    girl reading

    The national picture is that the number of state secondary schools in England considered to be underperforming has more than doubled in a year, according to official figures.

    Wondering what the figures mean? The BBC News website looks at what school performance data is and what it really means.

    11:58: News on the hour Giulia Bould BBC Radio Merseyside

    A gun and machetes have been seized by Merseyside police after they sealed off a house in Wirral.

    We will have more on this story and others in our 12:00 bulletin.

    11:49: Car park coated

    Thanks to A180 Darts for tweeting us this image of St Helens.

    Snow in St Helens
    11:30: Queues in Walton BBC Travel

    There is queuing traffic on the A59 Rice Lane inbound in Walton, Liverpool, at the A5098 Hornby Road junction, because of a burst water main and emergency repairs.

    All the latest information is available here.

    11:12: Two's company

    The University of Liverpool Library tweets its own snowy scene - ponies at Leahurst Campus.

    Ponies at Leahurst Campus
    11:00: News on the hour Giulia Bould BBC Radio Merseyside

    Everton manager Roberto Martinez is hopeful Kevin Mirallas will be fit to face Crystal Palace on Saturday.

    Kevin Mirallas

    The Belgian International was taken off at half-time in their last game against West Bromwich Albion with a tight hamstring, after missing a penalty.

    James McCarthy, Sylvain Distin and Darron Gibson also have a chance of being in the Blues squad, while Muhamed Bešić, who was also substituted with a foot problem, is back fully fit.

    10:47: Snowstorm delays Hillsborough inquests Liverpool Echo

    A snowstorm at Birchwood Park in Warrington has delayed the start of proceedings on day 133 of the Hillsborough inquests.

    10:36: Snow halts flights at Manchester BBC Radio Merseyside

    Snow is affecting flights at Manchester Airport. The runway is closed and there will be no flights before 10:30.

    10:32: Cocaine courier caught Liverpool Echo

    A Huyton drugs crook was caught at the wheel with cocaine potentially worth almost £1m and £80,000 in cash.

    10:16: Snow clearing at Manchester Airport BBC Radio Merseyside

    Manchester Airport said a "handful" of planes were forced to circle before landing earlier while one of their two landing runways was cleared of snow.

    The operation to de-ice and clear the snow began around 07:00. The airport's snow team will then switch to clear the other runway so that the "flow rate" of landings will be reduced.

    It is not expected to cause any major disruption, said a spokesman.

    10:02: News on the hour Giulia Bould BBC Radio Merseyside

    Men across Merseyside are being encouraged to talk to their friends as part of efforts to tackle Prostate Cancer.

    Thousands of men are diagnosed with the disease every year - but many ignore the symptoms.

    Join us at 10:00 to hear from Owen Sharp, from Prostate Cancer UK.

    09:44: Bookmakers robbery bid appeal

    This is the man Merseyside Police wish to speak to, after an attempted robbery of the William Hill bookmakers at 206 Vauxhall Road, Vauxhall.

    A raider, with his face covered and hood up, demanded a female member of staff hand over cash at just before 18:15 on Wednesday 13 January.

    the man police wish to speak to

    Officers said the worker "kept their cool" and called 999 immediately. The bookies was fitted with toughened security screens and the robber left empty-handed.

    09:37: 'Assault' at Blues' training ground Giulia Bould BBC Radio Merseyside

    A 17-year-old suffered a neck injury in an alleged assault at Everton's training ground, police have revealed.

    Investigations are ongoing, after the teenager was taken to hospital following the alleged assault at Finch Farm in Halewood.

    09:29: Legal threat over name St Helens Star

    A Hollywood comedy club has failed to see the joke after threatening a St Helens event with legal action over using the same name.

    09:21: Snow in Liverpool Tom Mullen BBC News

    The snow's started falling in Liverpool now. I can see it out of the window from my desk here at our Liverpool offices. I've tried to get a photo but there's not much to see just yet. Let's see how it develops.

    Email us: merseyside.locallive@bbc.co.uk 09:16: Your pictures

    Thanks to Gaynor Atherton for sending in this picture of snow in Aughton.

    Snow in Aughton

    Keep emailing us your pictures.

    09:07: Disaster ambulance boss criticised Paul Burnell BBC News

    An ex-chief ambulance officer said in the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy he would "take credit" for a successful response, the inquests heard.

    Hillsborough disaster

    But Albert Page also warned two other senior officers their heads would be "on the block" if things did not go well, the hearing was told yesterday.

    Mr Page denied both allegations by one of his deputies, former assistant chief ambulance officer David Jones.

    09:00: News on the hour Giulia Bould BBC Radio Merseyside

    The weather warning for icy conditions has been upgraded to amber as snow starts to fall in some areas of Merseyside and Cheshire.

    We are in for a very cold, windy day with sleet and rain.

    We will hear from Charlie Spencer, from the BBC Weather Centre, at 09:00 who tells us the greater risk of snow is on higher ground.

    08:53: Snowy St Helens Tom Mullen BBC News

    It seems there's been a dusting of snow in St Helens this morning. Mark Warren has tweeted us this picture. Keep them coming!

    Snow in St Helens
    08:41: M57 lane closure BBC Travel

    One lane is closed on the M57 southbound between J6, A506 for Kirkby and J5, for the A580 East Lancs Road, because of an overturned vehicle, drivers are being warned.

    08:32: Zoo recreates Indonesian habitat Paul Burnell BBC News

    A container load of old and battered objects from half way around the world has arrived at Chester Zoo.

    Indonesian boat arrives at Chester Zoo

    They included a boat, some roof tiles and several cages - artefacts from Indonesia being used in a new development at the zoo.

    The Islands project aims to recreate natural environments for tigers, orang-utans and crocodiles.

    08:14: Gun and machetes seized BBC Radio Merseyside

    Four people have been arrested as armed police seized a gun and machetes at a house on the Wirral - after a woman was threatened.

    She was told the group would come back for her later on Beryl Road in Noctorum around 19:20 last night.

    Later officers sealed off a house on Whetstone Lane in Birkenhead and arrested three men aged between 18 and 21 as well as a girl who is 17.

    08:04: Today's forecast BBC Weather Latest

    Another cold and windy day with sunny spells and further snow showers.

    However, these showers will likely fall as sleet near the coasts and the snow will become increasingly confined to the hills later in the day. Highs of 4C (39F).

    08:00: Good morning Alex Homer BBC Local Live

    I'm bringing you today's news, sport, travel and weather updates for Merseyside.

    Get in touch with us during the day over email, Facebook and Twitter.



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.