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'Gate warning' officer at inquest

A senior police officer who asked for exit gates to be opened at the fateful 1989 FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough will give evidence today at the inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters.

Former superintendent Roger Marshall made several radio requests for three exit gates to be opened as congestion built up outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles ahead of the kick-off and is said to have said somebody would be "killed if the gates weren't opened".

Exit Gate C was then opened at 2.52pm on the orders of the match commander, chief superintendent David Duckenfield, with the jury hearing that an estimated 2,000 Liverpool fans came through and "a significant number" headed for a central tunnel leading to the terraces of pens three and four behind the goal.

The inquest has heard evidence that the central tunnel was unmanned by police or stewards, with no-one directing supporters to the flanking tunnels, and that pens three and four was the scene of the fatal crush at the match between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool.

In a timeline of events presented to the jury of seven women and four men at the beginning of the inquests, Mr Marshall asked for the road near Leppings Lane, Sheffield, to be closed to traffic at 2.17pm, which it was at 2.30pm.

At 2.40pm Mr Marshall climbed onto the parapet of a nearby bridge over the River Don to get a better view of the scene. A large crowd had built up in the area immediately outside the turnstiles.

Two minutes later he called up reinforcements and asked for a Land Rover with a portable public address system to broadcast a request to stop pushing. The crowd remained tightly packed.

At 2.47pm Mr Marshall radioed the police control room and asked for permission to open the exit gates A, B and C to permit people to come in to ease the pressure and prevent injury. Mr Marshall made a second request for the gates to be opened. He repeated his request a third time, saying that somebody would be "killed if the gates weren't opened".

The Hillsborough inquests began at Birchwood Park, Warrington, on March 31 and are due to conclude next July.

The evidence of Mr Marshall, who was the most senior officer outside the ground on the day, is expected to last two days.

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