Hillsborough terrace capacity ‘overestimated by 1,700 fans’ before disaster killed 96 Liverpool fans
The capacity of the terrace at Hillsborough where 96 people were fatally injured was overestimated by more than 1,700, the retrial of match commander David Duckenfield has heard.
Chartered engineer John Cutlack told Preston Crown Court on Monday he calculated the safe capacity of the West Terrace at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground as 5,426, but the figure on the stadium’s safety certificate was 7,200.
Duckenfield, 75, who was the South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent in command of the FA Cup semi-final on April 15 1989, denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool supporters.
The jury of eight women and four men has heard Duckenfield gave an order to open exit gates to the ground after crowds built up outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles ahead of the 3pm kick-off.
Liverpool supporters who entered through exit gate C once it was opened then went down a tunnel to the already full central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace, where the fatal crush happened.
Mr Cutlack said 24,000 Liverpool fans needed to come through the turnstiles at Leppings Lane for the semi-final – at least 6,000 more than would use them for a league match – because spectators with tickets for the North Stand as well as the West Stand and terrace were directed there.
The 10,100 Liverpool supporters with standing tickets for the game had to pass through seven turnstiles, he said.
Mr Cutlack told the court once through those turnstiles, fans with tickets for the terraces could either head for the tunnel straight ahead of them which said “Standing” above it, go to the right where there was a very small sign marked standing, or go to the left through a gate in the wall.
He said: “I think the majority of fans would have wanted to make their way through the tunnel.”
The court heard once fans entered the central pens they would have to walk back up the terrace and through a gate in the radial fence if they wanted to move into a side pen.
Mr Cutlack said: “I think for somebody at the front, particularly at the front, of those terraces it would be well nigh impossible to get back up the terraces and out through that radial gate.”
He estimated the capacity figures for the two central pens as 678 and 778, but the jury was told the club figures for the pens were 1,200 and 1,000.
Duckenfield, of Bournemouth, stood trial for gross negligence manslaughter in January but the jury was unable to return any verdict and was discharged.
Under the law at the time, there can be no prosecution for the death of the 96th victim, Anthony Bland, as he died more than a year and a day after his injuries were caused.