Hillsborough Manslaughter jury fails to agree

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The fate of the police match commander accused of killing fans at the Hillsborough disaster was undecided today after a jury failed to reach a verdict on the charges against him.

The fate of the police match commander accused of killing fans at the Hillsborough disaster was undecided today after a jury failed to reach a verdict on the charges against him.

After deliberating for four-and-a-half days at Leeds Crown Court, the jury of eight men and four women was unable to reach a majority verdict on whether former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield was guilty of the manslaughter of two of the 96 Liverpool fans who were crushed to death on the terraces.

Duckenfield, 55, will now have to wait until Wednesday to find out whether he must face a re-trial on the two sample charges.

Relatives of the victims who brought the prosecution which led to the six-week trial will meet their lawyers tomorrow to decide whether to continue with the case before returning to Leeds Crown Court on Wednesday.

Duckenfield's deputy, ex-Superintendent Bernard Murray, 58, was cleared of the same manslaughter charges on Friday.

Today the trial judge discharged the jury, telling them: "Notwithstanding your very best efforts I understand you are not going to be able to reach a verdict in this case.

"In these circumstances I will discharge you from so doing. That will be the end of your involvement in the matter."

He thanked the jurors for the "great care and attention" they had paid to the case and excused them from jury service for 10 years.

He added: "You have approached the case with obvious interest and enthusiasm. Sadly you have not been able to reach a verdict, but these things happen."

More than 50 relatives of the Liverpool fans who died at their team's FA Cup semi-final clash with Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989, packed the public gallery every day of the trial.

Many of them were clutching red roses as they left court without comment.

Father-of-two Duckenfield, of Bournemouth, Dorset, was escorted by uniformed police officers as he left court without commenting.

The families had claimed in the private prosecution that the two South Yorkshire police officers were responsible for the fans' deaths.

They were said to have ordered the opening of an exit gate to relieve the crush of supporters outside the turnstiles without taking steps to block off a tunnel leading the already overcrowded Leppings Lane terraces.

The judge had told the jurors that they had to consider whether there were failings on the part of the officers which led to the disaster - and whether any failings amounted to a serious criminal offence.

Duckenfield's counsel, Mr William Clegg QC, had told the court that the tragedy was "unprecedented, unforeseeable and unique" and that Mr Duckenfield, who did not give evidence, was not responsible.

Mr Murray, of Pontefract, West Yorkshire, had told the jury from the witness box how he was "haunted" by the thought that he could have saved some of the victims by ordering the tunnel to be closed.

He said afterwards he was "pleased and relieved" with the verdict, but added: "This does not reduce the sadness and sympathy I feel for people who lost family and friends on April 15, 1989."

Mr Murray said today in a fuller statement through his solicitor: "I have suffered deeply over the past 11 years, and particularly over the last two years.

"However, I know that this cannot compare with the suffering of people who lost sons, daughters, fathers or brothers and my thoughts will always be with them.

"I can only hope that the passage of time can help everyone to understand each other's feelings and failings and try, and I appreciate how difficult this will be, to look to the future."

The case is estimated to have cost a total of £4 million in prosecution and defence costs.