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Hillsborough verdict: David Duckenfield cleared of manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans

Irish Mirror logoIrish Mirror 28/11/2019 Tom Davidson
a man wearing a suit and tie © Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror

Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield has been found not guilty of gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool supporters.

The retired chief superintendent, who is 75, denied the charge relating to the FA Cup semi-final on April 15 1989.

After delivering the verdict the judge, Sir Peter Openshaw thanked the jury before they were dismissed.

Christine Burke tearfully spoke from the gallery after the verdict was delivered and said that the 96 were unlawfully killed and she wants to know who is responsible, reports the Liverpool Echo.

Her dad was one of those killed.

About 45 family members watched the verdict from the Cunard building in Liverpool, where the trial was screened.

There were shouts in the room as the verdict was announced.

a man wearing a hat © Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror

One family member shouted: "Stitched up again."

Other family members were in tears.

Last year it was confirmed no-one else would face prosecution for the unlawful killing of 96 men, women and children.

Ninety-six men, women and children died following the crush on the terrace but, under the law at the time, there can be no prosecution for the death of the 96th victim Tony Bland as he died more than a year and a day after the disaster.

The prosecution in the case alleged Duckenfield, 75, had a "personal responsibility" for what happened at the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Duckenfield stood trial earlier this year but the jury was discharged after failing to reach a verdict and a retrial was ordered.

The court heard the chief superintendent ordered the opening of exit gates at the Leppings Lane end of the ground at 2.52pm, eight minutes before kick-off, after the area outside the turnstiles became dangerously overcrowded.

More than 2,000 fans entered through exit gate C once it was opened and many headed for the tunnel ahead of them, which led to the central pens where the crush happened.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd © Bob Thomas/Getty Images

Duckenfield did not give evidence in the trial as the court heard he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Judge Sir Peter Openshaw also told jurors the condition could explain Duckenfield's lack of reaction as he sat in the well of the court throughout the trial.

He said: "He has a resilient, passive and expressionless external presentation which gives no indication of his state of mind so don't draw an adverse inference against him."

The court was played audio of the retired chief superintendent giving evidence to inquests in 2015.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd © Bob Thomas/Getty Images

At the hearings he accepted he should have taken steps to close the tunnel to the central pens after ordering the opening of the exit gate.

Benjamin Myers QC, defending Duckenfield, told the jury he had been a "target of blame" for the disaster.

He told the court: "We say David Duckenfield did do what he was expected to do as match commander. He didn't breach his duty, he did what he was expected to do in difficult circumstances."

Summing up the case, the judge said: "The deaths of 96 spectators, many of whom were very young, is, of course, a profound human tragedy attended by much anguish and anger which for many has not passed with time.

"But, as both counsel have advised you and I will now direct you, as you go about your duty you must put aside your emotions and sympathies, either for the bereaved families or indeed for Mr Duckenfield, and decide the case with a cold, calm and dispassionate review of the evidence that you have heard in court."

Former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell, 69, stood trial alongside Duckenfield in January and was found guilty of a health and safety offence for failing to ensure there were enough turnstiles to prevent unduly large crowds building up outside the ground.

He was fined £6,500 and ordered to pay £5,000.

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