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Hillsborough inquest jury retires to consider verdicts in 96 deaths of 1989 disaster

Published 06/04/2016

The scene at Hillsborough on the day of the tragedy
The scene at Hillsborough on the day of the tragedy

The Hillsborough inquest jury has retired to consider verdicts in the 96 deaths of Liverpool fans in the 1989 disaster, two years after proceedings opened.

The seven women and three men of the jury retired at 2.05pm on Wednesday to consider 14 key questions set out by the Coroner Sir John Goldring, in a 33 page questionnaire, including determining if match commander David Duckenfield is responsible for the unlawful killing of the fans by gross negligence manslaughter.

The hearings into Britain's worst sporting disaster first began on March 31 2014, at a specially built courtroom in Warrington, Cheshire, with dozens of relatives of the 96 attending each of the more than 300 days the court has sat at Bridgewater Place at the town's Birchwood Park business park.

The Hillsborough tragedy unfolded on April 15 1989 during Liverpool's FA Cup tie against Nottingham Forest as thousands of fans were crushed on Sheffield Wednesday's Leppings Lane terrace.

Mr Duckenfield gave the order at 2.52pm to open exit Gate C in Leppings Lane, allowing around 2,000 fans to flood into the already packed central pens behind the goal.

At the start of the inquests, the coroner said none of the victims should be blamed for their deaths.

Emotional tributes to each of the 96 were then delivered by family members in the form of personal portraits.

Jurors have heard months of evidence from more than 800 witnesses on topics including stadium safety, match planning, the events of the day, the emergency response and evidence gathering by police after the disaster.

The role and responsibility of Mr Duckenfield also came under intense scrutiny.

The jury was then told of the final movements of each victim before hearing from medical experts and pathologists as to the circumstances of the deaths.

The 1991 verdicts from the original inquests were quashed following the 2012 Hillsborough Independent Panel report.

Sir John told the jurors they would have to resolve "conflicts" of evidence they have heard between what Liverpool fans said and the accounts of police officers critical of them.

The coroner also told them they would have to consider the way police statements were taken, reviewed and sometimes amended in what families claim was an attempt to mould the evidence and protect the South Yorkshire force.

As he summed up the evidence, Sir John reminded the jury: "As you will recall, it was suggested to many witnesses that senior officers collectively sought to present a 'false narrative' of the disaster. The senior officers from whom we heard strongly denied that suggestion.

"You will need to consider this evidence because, if you were to take the view there was some deliberate decision, you might think it reflected a view of the facts of the disaster taken by the senior officers. That, of course, is a matter for you."

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