The inquiry into the disaster led by Lord Chief Justice Taylor
established that main cause was a failure of police crowd control.
began to unfold from around 14:30 on what was a bright and sunny day.
The game was to be a repeat of the 1988 semi-final, in which Liverpool
had faced Nottingham Forest at the same venue.
Liverpool fans had
begun arriving at the ground from midday, but had to enter their
designated stand at Leppings Lane through a small number of decrepit
Once inside, many made their way on to the terraced
lower stand which was ringed with blue-painted steel fences and
laterally divided into five separate "pens".
Fencing had been put up by many football clubs during the 1970s and 80s to control crowds and prevent pitch invasions.
A crush of supporters built up outside the ground
By about 1450, pens 3 and 4 - those directly behind the goal - were
full, but outside the ground thousands of fans were still waiting to get
The pens' official combined capacity was 2,200. It was later
discovered that this should have been reduced to 1,600 as crush
barriers installed three years earlier did not meet official safety
At 1452, police ordered a large exit gate - Gate C -
to be opened to alleviate the crush outside the ground. Around 2,000
fans then made their way into the ground and headed straight for a
tunnel leading directly to pens 3 and 4.
This influx caused
severe crushing in the pens. Fans began climbing over side fences into
the relatively less packed pens 1 and 5 to escape.
It was later estimated that more than 3,000 supporters were admitted to the central pens - almost double the "safe" capacity.
1500, the game kicked off. Five minutes later a crush barrier in pen 3
gave way, causing people to fall on top of each other.
Ambulances were hindered in getting into the ground
Supporters continued to climb perimeter fences to escape, while others were dragged to safety by fans in the upper tiers.
1506, a policeman ran on to the pitch and ordered the referee to stop
the game. In the chaotic aftermath, supporters tore up advertising
hoardings to use as makeshift stretchers and tried to administer first
aid to the injured.
The authorities' response to the disaster was
slow and badly co-ordinated. Firefighters with cutting gear had
difficulty getting into the ground, and although dozens of ambulances
were dispatched, access to the pitch was delayed because police were
reporting "crowd trouble".
Of the 96 people who died, only 14 were ever admitted to hospital.
his interim report on 4 August 1989, Lord Justice Taylor wrote that the
key element of police control at fault was the failure to close off the
tunnel leading to pens 3 and 4 once Gate C had been opened.
went on to criticise police for their failure to handle the build-up of
fans outside the ground properly, and their slow reaction to the
Some of his strongest words were reserved for
the police commander, Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, for
"failing to take effective control", and South Yorkshire police, who
attempted to blame supporters for the crush by arriving at the ground
"late and drunk".
Despite the Taylor report, which was also
critical of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club and Sheffield City
Council, on 14 August 1990 the director of public prosecutions decided
not to bring criminal charges against any individual, group or body on
the grounds of insufficient evidence.
Inquests into the deaths of
the victims returned a majority verdict of accidental death, but many
families did not accept this and began to campaign for a fresh inquiry.
the wake of renewed public and media interest in the disaster which
followed the broadcast of Jimmy McGovern's documentary-drama
Hillsborough in 1996, Home Secretary Jack Straw ordered a "scrutiny of
Duckenfield (L) and Murray faced disciplinary proceedings and both left the force
Lord Justice Stuart-Smith was appointed to review "new" evidence
which had not been submitted to the inquiry or inquests and also dozens
of police and witness statements, apparently critical of police, which
had been altered.
Lord Justice Stuart-Smith's conclusion was that
the fresh evidence did not add anything significant to the
understanding of the disaster, and that while statements should not have
been edited, this was simply an "error of judgement".
accepted the findings and ruled out a new inquiry, but in August 1998
the Hillsborough Family Support group brought charges of manslaughter
against David Duckenfield and his deputy, Superintendent Bernard Murray,
in a private prosecution.
The case came to trial in 2000. After
six weeks the jury found Mr Murray not guilty of manslaughter, and said
it could not reach a verdict on Mr Duckenfield.
The judge, Mr
Justice Hooper, ruled out a majority verdict and refused a retrial on
the grounds that Mr Duckenfield had faced public humiliation and a fair
trial would be impossible.
In 2006, Anne Williams, the mother of
15-year-old victim Kevin Williams, took a case to the European Court of
Human Rights challenging the verdict of the original inquest.
support groups and campaigners believe that if the court decides that
there is a case to be heard, it will place pressure on the British
government to open a new inquiry.