Hillsborough Inquests: 'No senior police officer in charge' as disaster unfolded

Police Inspector Anthony Humphries described how he was greeted with the scene of

Police Inspector Anthony Humphries described how he was greeted with the scene of "a pile of bodies" when he first went on to the Leppings Lane terraces at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

First published in News © by

No senior police officer appeared to be in charge in responding to the unfolding Hillsborough disaster, the inquest into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans heard.

Police Inspector Anthony Humphries described how he was greeted with the scene of "a pile of bodies" when he first went on to the Leppings Lane terraces at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

The only instruction he received beforehand from a superior was to "get in there and help with the injured", the now retired officer said.

Mr Humphries said he could not see the pitch as he entered from a tunnel that led to the rear of the overcrowded central pens of the terrace where supporters were crushed.

Christina Lambert QC, asked him whom he thought was leading the response to the tragedy.

The witness replied: "Everyone was basically talking at once over the radio. There did not seem to be anybody that was actually pulling it together."

He said he accepted responsibility where he was positioned and took it upon himself to take charge and direct constables and sergeants in assisting casualties.

Mr Humphries said initially they were concerned with bringing fans out of the terraces, down the tunnel and to a concreted area in the stadium concourse. It was there that injured people were put to one side and those who were considered dead were on the other, he added.

He described how he left one young male who he had helped bring out of the tunnel and whom he thought had died.

The supporter was propped up against a wall on his back, with his T-shirt pulled up to cover his face.

Mr Humphries said: "It was not dignified having to do that."

He went on: "There was an ambulance that came and we got some people in that and then it went.

"Then we waited a little while and then a doctor came and more or less we started a triage-type system, and then some more ambulances came on a regular basis."

Asked if he accepted that some of those he considered had died may not have done and could have been revived, Mr Humphries said he was at the time concerned with "getting on with what he was doing" and "other people needed seeing".

Miss Lambert asked: "Did you ever receive instructions from anyone more senior than you as to what to do?"

"No," replied Mr Humphries.

Asked later if he considered that a surprise, he told the court sitting in Warrington: "I did think obviously that there was a lot going on the pitch, a lot that I didn't see and I just assumed that other people were elsewhere doing other things."

Mr Humphries said he had not considered sending an officer to the nearby police control box to ask for more help and did not know where it was because he had never been in the ground before.

He told the jury it was "a very highly charged" atmosphere and the mood of the Liverpool fans changed as the afternoon went on.

He said: "They were really angry, blaming us for being murderers and things like that and swearing and shouting.

"There was some spitting but there were a lot of them waving fists and shouting abuse, I suppose having seen what they had seen."

He said a lot of young police officers were on duty and he was "really quite proud of how they stood and took all the abuse."

Later he went to the North Stand of the stadium and saw small groups of officers who were all crying, and told the hearing: "That was quite unnerving."

On the day of the disaster on April 15, he was in charge of about 30 officers who were patrolling public areas on the approach to the ground.

He said the build-up to kick off was "just like a normal football match".

Alcohol was being consumed in the surrounding area of the ground but no-one was drunk and disorderly and no arrests were made, he said.

Mr Humphries, who later rose through the ranks to become a chief superintendent, made a note of the day's events in his pocket notebook the following day, the jury heard.

He said he went on to give a fuller detailed account in a statement made about a week later as part of the West Midlands Police independent investigation into the disaster.

Mr Humphries said he briefed a chief superintendent and superintendent at his own station at Doncaster on April 16.

He denied a suggestion from Brenda Campbell, representing some of the bereaved families, that those two senior officers had mentioned to him that matters had been put in place to prevent officers "putting pen to paper" in their police notebooks until further notice.

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