Hillsborough Police Officer Describes How Crushed Fans Pleaded For Help

"I will never forget. Never forget."
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield (centre) and former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell (right).
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield (centre) and former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell (right).
PA Wire/PA Images

A police officer on duty at the Hillsborough disaster told a court how a fan pushed and dragged him to the crush on the terraces, saying: “It’s terrible, there are people dying, people are dead.”

Retired PC Alan Ramsden said he “did not quite believe” the fan but was forced by him to go to look at the crush at the Leppings Lane end of the ground.

“I will never forget. Never forget,” he told the jury at Preston Crown Court in the trial of David Duckenfield, the match commander at Hillsborough Stadium on the day of the 1989 tragedy when dozens of Liverpool fans were crushed to death.

Ramsden continued: “There was young faces, wire mesh, pleading with us to rescue them and we could not.

“I was shocked. I think traumatised.

“We tried pulling at the wire, couldn’t move it, and then there were bobbies actually pulling the spectators that were able to move and I could see these bodies. It was shocking.”

The former South Yorkshire Police constable said he tried to give assistance to one stricken fan.

He said: “It was a lad, laid on the perimeter. He was motionless. I went over to him, started putting him in the recovery position. There was still no sign of life.

“I placed the Brook airway in his mouth. I don’t know if it touched the roof of his mouth but he took a deep intake of breath and I put him in the recovery position.

“I believe he said his name was Kevin.”

Ramsden said he left the fan with other Liverpool supporters and went off to help others carrying injured people on advertising hoardings being used as stretchers.

Earlier, the witness said the job of his group of officers was to meet the Liverpool fans as they arrived in Sheffield on a Football Special train and escort them to the ground for the cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

He said: “We expected a more riotous type of supporters. No singing, no chanting. I think I have made reference to a Sunday club. Having a chat with us, no trouble at all.”

Ramsden said two of the fans arrived off the train carrying a tea urn between them.

Trial judge Sir Peter Openshaw asked the witness: “With tea?”

Ramsden replied: “I wouldn’t have presumed so.”

He said as kick-off approached, crowds began to build at the turnstiles outside the ground but there did not appear to be many police officers around.

And unlike a previous cup semi-final he policed in 1987, he said there was no cordon or sterile area set up where the flow of fans were screened and filtered as they approached the ground.

Ten minutes before the 3pm kick-off, Ramsden said Liverpool fans began to climb over the turnstiles to escape the crush that had built up.

He said an inspector, Stephen Ellis, stood on top of a wall reaching down and lifting children out of the crowd and used a megaphone to shout: “Liverpool supporters, please do not push.”

Ramsden said there were “no real instructions” on what to do coming through on the police radio and he was lifted off his feet and his “serial” engulfed in the crowd.

He added: “Even before we went onto the pitch, I felt there was nothing much we could do to help. We were useless, we were not fulfilling any function at all. We were just part of the crowd.”

He told the court he then received a message, “All personnel on to the pitch”.

Duckenfield, 74, of Bournemouth, denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 men, women and children who died at the match on April 15 1989.

There can be no prosecution for the 96th person, Tony Bland, as he died more than a year and a day after the disaster and his death is “out of time” under the laws of the time.

Graham Mackrell, 69, of Stocking Pelham, Herts, the then-club secretary of match hosts Sheffield Wednesday FC, denies breaching a condition of the ground’s safety certificate and a health and safety offence.

The trial continues.


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