Hillsborough inquest: Jury visits the site of the disaster

 

The jury in the inquest into the 1989 disaster was taken to the football ground where 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death in Britain’s worst sporting disaster.

In eerie silence under rainy skies, the 11-strong panel stood in the deserted stadium in Sheffield at the location of the former pens in the Leppings Lane end where most of the young supporters were killed.

Huddling under the umbrellas, they listened to the explanation by coroner Lord Justice Goldring via headphones. He told the jury that the layout had “fundamentally changed” since the tragedy with standing terraces now replaced by seating.

A tall anti-hooligan fence which prevented fans escaping on to the pitch at the height of the crush had also been removed. The dimensions of these long-removed crowd control structures were demonstrated with a cane and orange tape.

The jurors were later taken to the site of the former gymnasium, where many of the bodies were stored on the day of the disaster. It is now a Sheffield Wednesday shop selling shirts and other club memorabilia.

On the way to the stadium aboard two coaches, escorted by police motorbikes and cars, Lord Justice Goldring pointed out the White Horse pub, just off the A61, where some Liverpool supporters went before the match.

He also showed them the former site of Wadsley Bridge Train Station, from where Liverpool supporters were accompanied by police officers as they made their way to the stadium.

At the end of the visit the panel was driven along the same route ambulances took in 1989 to the Northern General Hospital, where 88 casualties were taken.

After passing the Hillsborough memorial on the southside of the stadium, commemorating those who died, the coaches drove past Royal Hallamshire Hospital, where 77 casualties were taken.

The inquest is due to last into next year. The jury has already heard a series of pen portraits outlining the lives of those who died.

Earlier this week the inquest heard a minute by minute countdown of how the disaster unfolded.

The new hearings were ordered in the wake of the damning report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel in 2012 which resulted in the original accidental death verdicts being set aside.

A separate criminal investigation into the disaster, codenamed Operation Resolve, is also underway.

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