Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Dalglish quizzed on Liverpool fans

Kenny Dalglish has been questioned at the inquests into the Hillsborough disaster about the behaviour of Liverpool fans and hooliganism.

The former Anfield player and manager was quizzed about what he had written in his autobiography on ticketless fans "bunking in" to games, by John Beggs QC, who represents former Hillsborough match commander Superintendent David Duckenfield, of South Yorkshire Police.

In sometimes fractious courtroom exchanges, involving coroner Lord Justice Goldring and other lawyers, Mr Beggs repeatedly tried to ask the witness about hooliganism and a "cohort" of Liverpool fans who were "prone" to violence, drinking heavily and trying to get into football grounds without tickets, "before, during and after" the Hillsborough disaster, the court heard.

Mr Dalglish was the team boss on the day of the tragedy and, at the request of South Yorkshire Police, broadcast a message to fans asking for calm, as the disaster unfolded at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium on April 15 1989.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died from the crush on the Leppings Lane terrace of the ground as the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest got under way.

Mr Dalglish, giving evidence from the witness box and watched by around 25 relatives of victims, was asked by Mr Beggs about his book, My Liverpool Home, written in 2010.

Mr Beggs pointed out that in it, Mr Dalglish, writing about the Liverpool v Everton FA Cup Final in 1986, spoke of "Scousers" climbing through windows and using ropes to get into Wembley Stadium.

"Bunking in", the book continued, "to the most famous stadium in the world for the final of the oldest trophy in football."

Mr Beggs read another passage in which Mr Dalglish gave his reaction when the official attendance was given at the game - 98,000.

"I just laughed, as there must have been 110,000 crammed in, beneath the twin towers."

Mr Beggs told the court, here was an "icon" of the game of football, and especially to Liverpool fans, "laughing at the fact they broke the law" by gaining entry to a football ground without tickets.

Mr Dalglish said he laughed at the official attendance figures - not people allegedly "bunking in".

Mr Beggs asked if there was any "deprecation" or criticism of such fans in the book.

Mr Dalglish replied: "I'm laughing now because you used the word icon, not me. I don't think I'm actually judge and jury how people should and should not behave."

Mr Beggs then moved on to a post-match Home Office report about the FA Cup Final in 1989, another all- Merseyside final, a month after the Hillsborough disaster.

The report spoke of the "sheer scale" of attempts to bunk in from fans from Merseyside, which was "troubling".

Mr Dalglish said the "clamber for tickets" for the all-Merseyside Cup Final was "overwhelming" to "show their unity and support for the families who had lost loved ones at Hillsborough".

The witness was then asked about what he had written in his book about the Heysel disaster of 1985 involving Liverpool fans in which 39 rival Juventus fans were killed.

Mr Dalglish had written that only "chicken wire" separated the groups of "passionate" supporters which was inadequate.

Mr Beggs continued: "Are you not acknowledging that within the Liverpool supporters there was a cohort of supporters prone to violence?"

"No," Mr Dalglish replied.

Mr Beggs said Heysel was another example of why in the 1980s football grounds had "robust, prison-type fencing" to contain supporters.

And he put it to the witness that even players themselves were at times attacked by fans.

Coroner Lord Justice Goldring intervened: "Where is this going, Mr Beggs? How is it relevant?"

Mr Beggs replied: "Because an icon in British football is making the point I have throughout these inquests that, unless you have these robust fences, you have the sort of disaster that unfolded at Heysel."

Mr Dalglish interjected: "Excuse me. I don't think I'm endorsing what he's saying."

Mr Beggs then asked the witness if he was "prepared to agree" that if 2,000 or 3,000 Liverpool fans turned up late for the Hillsborough match, they would have contributed to the disaster.

Lord Justice Goldring again intervened: "No. He can't answer that question."

Mr Beggs continued: "If those self same supporters turned up heavily in drink..."

Lord Justice Goldring repeated: "He can't answer that question, Mr Beggs."

The lawyer, who also represents two other senior police officers at Hillsborough, then tried to continue, asking why, if he is prepared to give an opinion in his book, he cannot be asked about it now.

The coroner replied: "Mr Beggs, please don't argue with me."

Rajiv Menon QC, representing some of the families of victims of the disaster, next questioned the witness, asking about the behaviour and reputation of Liverpool fans in the 1980s, "notwithstanding the tragedy of 1985".

Mr Dalglish replied: "I think Liverpool football fans, with that one exception, were very highly respected and revered. I think they were well known for the support they gave the team."

Pete Weatherby QC, also representing families, asked the witness if, in his opinion, there was "no connection whatsoever" between what happened at Hillsborough and the Heysel disaster.

Mr Dalglish replied: "Heysel, it's people fighting and people have been arrested and charged and jailed."

Earlier, Mr Dalglish was asked about what he saw of the disaster on the day.

But this was limited, the jury heard, because he was in the dressing room until kick-off, then focusing on the match, before briefly going on the pitch and then returning immediately to the dressing room after the game was abandoned at 3.06pm.

Mr Dalglish added: "We knew there was fatalities or we were told there were fatalities; we were not told what the cause was but we knew it was not people fighting or hooliganism.

"The place was mayhem, nobody knew what's going on, there's stories coming from every angle."

With the match abandoned, he next went with a police officer to make a brief announcement to fans, saying people were injured and asking supporters to stay calm and assist the police.

Later he and the players returned to the team bus for the journey back to Merseyside.

Mr Dalglish added: "I don't think there was hardly a word spoken amongst anybody."

The inquests, being held in Warrington, were adjourned for the Christmas break and will resume on January 5.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph