Hillsborough inquest: Kenny Dalglish defends fans

Kenny Dalglish arrives at the inquest in Warrington. Picture: Getty
Kenny Dalglish arrives at the inquest in Warrington. Picture: Getty
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WEARING a red Liverpool FC tie and with a lapel badge for the “96” sitting prominently on his suit jacket, Kenny Dalglish gave evidence at the inquest into the Hillsborough disaster yesterday.

He was questioned about the behaviour of Liverpool fans and hooliganism, during the first time he had spoken in a court about the disaster.

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Mr Dalglish was the team manager on the day the disaster unfolded, on 15 April, 1989, at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died in the crush on the Leppings Lane terrace at the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

The former Anfield player and manager was asked what he saw of the disaster and he said he had been in the dressing room, preparing for the match, when word filtered through. He briefly went pitchside before returning to the dressing room.

He said: “We knew there were fatalities, or we were told there were fatalities. We were not told what the cause was but we knew it was not people fighting or hooliganism.

“The place was mayhem, nobody knew what was going on; there’s stories coming from every angle.”

With the match abandoned, he next went with a police officer at their request to make a brief announcement to fans, saying people were injured and asking supporters to stay calm and assist the police.

Later, he and the players returned to the team bus for the journey back to Merseyside. Dalglish added: “I don’t think there was hardly a word spoken amongst anybody.”

However, the bulk of the questioning sparked angry exchanges between legal teams which led to the former Celtic and Liverpool legend being excused three times while arguments took place into the line of questioning.

John Beggs QC, representing the Hillsborough match-day commander Superintendent David Duckenfield, of South Yorkshire Police, repeatedly tried to ask the witness about hooliganism and Liverpool fans who were “prone” to violence and trying to get into grounds – “bunking in” – without tickets, “before, during and after” the Hillsborough disaster.

Mr Beggs’ questioning provoked fractious exchanges involving coroner Lord Justice Goldring and other lawyers.

Mr Dalglish, giving evidence from the witness box while watched by around 25 relatives of victims, was asked by Mr Beggs about a post-match Home Office report on the 1989 all-Merseyside FA Cup final, one month after the Hillsborough disaster.

The report spoke of the “sheer scale” of attempts to bunk in from fans from Merseyside.

Mr Dalglish said the “clamour for tickets” for the cup final was “overwhelming” because fans wanted to “show their unity and support for the families who had lost loved ones at Hillsborough”.

The witness was then asked about comments in his book, My Liverpool Home, written in 2010, about the Heysel disaster of 1985 involving Liverpool fans in which 39 Juventus fans died.

Mr Dalglish had written that only “chicken wire” separated the groups of “passionate” supporters, which was inadequate.

Mr Beggs continued: “Are you not acknowledging that within the Liverpool supporters there was a cohort of supporters prone to violence?”

Mr Dalglish replied: “No”.

The inquests, being held in Warrington, were adjourned for the Christmas break and will resume on 5 January.

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