Hillsborough Inquests: Policeman says some fans had 'drunk too much'

CCTV of fans at Hillsborough Image copyright Hillsbrough Inquests
Image caption Roger Marshall said the Hillsborough disaster was a "tragedy" for police as well as the families of those who died

A senior police officer has told an inquest a "substantial minority" of fans "had had too much to drink" ahead of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died as a result of the crush at the FA Cup semi-final in Sheffield.

The inquests in Warrington heard how an initial crush of fans developed outside the stadium before kick-off.

Former superintendent Roger Marshall, who was in charge of the Liverpool fans, denied he was "out of his depth".

Mr Marshall's requests for an exit gate to be opened to relieve the situation preceded the fatal crush inside the ground.

'Coloured their judgement'

During his second day in the witness box, Mr Marshall was questioned by barristers representing families who lost loved ones in the disaster.

Image copyright other
Image caption Ninety-six Liverpool fans died following a fatal crush at Hillsborough stadium in 1989

Pete Weatherby QC said footage shot outside the stadium showed "no obvious drink-fuelled behaviour".

However, Mr Marshall, the most senior South Yorkshire Police officer to give evidence at the inquests so far, said a "substantial minority" had drunk too much.

"People weren't lying on the floor totally incapacitated," he said.

"People, quite rightly, had a drink or two, but I can tell you that some people had had a little bit too much, and the fact that they had had too much coloured their judgement."

Mr Weatherby said: "You are picking up an obvious fact from a leisure event of that nature that people will have a drink and are using that to shift the blame onto the fans."

Mr Marshall replied: "No, I'm not doing that."

'Professional best'

The retired officer said he was "surprised" by some media coverage of his first day's evidence which he claimed suggested he was blaming fans.

But he said: "If you want my honest opinion, I think that some of the fans, not all the fans, some of the fans have a responsibility for what occurred and for the situation that arose under my command outside."

Mr Weatherby then asked: "Had the terrible tragedy not occurred, you would have gone home that evening without thinking twice about the level of drinking, wouldn't you?"

Mr Marshall said: "Probably, yes."

He also said officers had done their "professional best" and that the disaster was a tragedy for the police as well as the bereaved families.

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Media captionFormer Supt Roger Marshall tries to deal with crowds outside the Hillsborough stadium

Mr Marshall was also questioned by Peter Wilcock QC, who represents another group of families,

The barrister questioned how much experience Mr Marshall had of policing the "unique situation at Leppings Lane".

Mr Marshall said: "The situation which I found myself in the midst of was to me unprecedented and I would guess it was unprecedented for many of the other senior officers in supervisory roles at that time."

Mr Wilcock then asked: "Mr Marshall, is the sad fact that you were out of your depth on April 15, 1989?"

The retired officer said: "No, I don't think I was out of my depth, I was doing my best."

The jury was shown footage timed at 14:38 on the day of the disaster showing Mr Marshall in among the crowd.

Mr Wilcock said it showed Mr Marshall pointing a fan "to the turnstiles towards the crush".

The barrister said: "How does that fit in with someone in command trying to deal with excess numbers in the turnstile area? You are doing the opposite of what was required aren't you?"

Mr Marshall repeated he was doing his "best" in the situation in which he found himself.

The inquests continue.

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