Hillsborough: Liverpool supporter describes pulling fans from 'human cascade' on terrace

'It was like a waterfall with people tumbling on each other,' jurors are told

David Duckenfield, match-day police commander at the Hillsborough football stadium disaster, arrives at court in Preston for his first trial in January
David Duckenfield, match-day police commander at the Hillsborough football stadium disaster, arrives at court in Preston for his first trial in January

A Liverpool fan has recalled how he pulled fellow supporters by their hair from a “human cascade” on the terraces at Hillsborough.

Frederick Eccleston told Preston Crown Court how he helped a police officer deal with a “waterfall” of people packed into the Leppings Lane terrace during the FA Cup semi-final on 15 April, 1989.

Giving evidence at the trial of match commander David Duckenfield and former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell, Mr Eccleston said the central pens of the terrace were “ram-packed full of people” whereas those to the side were “half-empty”.

He said he attended with his son and a family friend, and had been stood on the north-west terrace.

Mr Eccleston said that when the match was stopped he went on to the pitch and joined a police officer pulling fans from the central pens.

The former senior nursing manager for Wirral health authority said: “We both were pulling people out of that human cascade, it was like a waterfall with people tumbling on each other. I can remember pulling people by their arms, their legs, their hair, their cheeks.”

Jurors heard how Mr Eccleston gave medical treatment to injured fans both on the pitch and later in the stadium’s gym. He said he left Hillsborough at about 4.45pm and realised he “must have witnessed the longest football match in the world”.

He told the court he had attended the stadium for the 1988 semi-final, but on that occasion the tunnel to the central pens had been blocked off.

He said: “There were a number of police officers and stewards standing together, they said ‘no, this is full, these pens are full, you can’t come down here’, those were more or less their words.”

The court also heard from former police constable Fiona Nicol, who was stationed on the perimeter track in front of the Leppings Lane terrace.

Asked for her impression of Mr Duckenfield, she said: “I did believe him to be ‘what he said went’, and if he told us what was going to happen and that’s how he wanted it to go, that’s the way we were supposed to do it.”

She told the court the then-chief superintendent had visited her and colleagues at Hammerton Road police station after taking up his post, just weeks before the disaster.

She said: “He basically told us he was here to sort it out and make us toe the line because of things that had happened at Hammerton Road in the past.”

The court heard that officers stationed in front of the terrace were told no one was allowed access to the pitch perimeter track from the pens without consent of a senior officer, except to receive medical aid.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

But Ms Nicol said she opened the gate to pen three to allow fans to leave and enter a side pen after a man who was at the match with a group of boy scouts asked if they could move.

She said: “I was frightened about opening the gate because I knew I wasn’t meant to but I also could see these children were clearly upset and I thought I could walk with them back down to pen one and it wouldn’t cause too much of a problem.”

The court heard that as the disaster unfolded she gave medical help to a number of fans on the pitch.

Mr Duckenfield, 74, denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans who died in the crush on the Leppings Lane terrace.

Under the law at the time, there can be no prosecution for the 96th victim, Tony Bland, as he died more than a year and a day after the disaster.

Mr Mackrell, 69, denies breaching a condition of the ground’s safety certificate and failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety Act.

Additional reporting by PA

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in