A Liverpool fan climbed out of an overcrowded central terrace pen to an adjoining one which was "quite empty", the inquest into the Hillsborough tragedy has heard.

Ian Devine said pen 2 in the Leppings Lane end at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final was "not even remotely full" compared to pen 3 which he first entered about five minutes before kick-off on April 15.

He said the outside of the turnstiles was congested when he arrived at about 2.30pm and that police on horseback were pushing the crowd back.

When he eventually got in through the turnstiles he walked up the facing central tunnel and was not aware of any other access to the terracing, he said.

Mr Devine said there were "a couple of stewards" in the inner concourse but he saw no police officers there or near to and in the tunnel.

The hearing in Warrington has heard that 96 Liverpool fans died at the match against Nottingham Forest following crushing in the central pens 3 and 4 of the Leppings Lane terrace at Sheffield Wednesday's ground.

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel for the inquest, asked: "As you entered the pens from the tunnel how crowded were they?"

The witness said: "The pen we at first walked in was very crowded.

"It was worse at the back so we tried to move over to the right and get under a couple of barriers and then that's where we ended up, to try to get away from the tunnel because more people were just coming in."

When he reached the radial fencing separating pens 2 and 3 he said the congestion became worse.

Mr Devine said: "It was getting tighter."

Mr Hough asked: "Did you become worried?"

He replied: "Yes. A lot of of people were. Especially when you knew the pen next to you was quite empty."

He said he climbed over into pen 2 after seeing others doing so and later saw fans being pulled up into the stand above.

Mr Devine said he did not see any police officers on the terrace at the time, only six to eight standing facing the crowd on the perimeter of the pitch.

He said supporters became more "agitated" as the game was about to kick-off and he heard cries and screams.

Mr Devine said he witnessed a police officer stood at the front of pen 2 who fans were screaming at to let them out.

"I don't think he knew what was going on really," he said.

The witness said he eventually went on to the pitch where he found a friend who he had been separated from and was being treated for injuries.

Mr Devine said: "Obviously you don't realise at the time what was wrong with him but he was just lying on a board."

He was being looked after by a fellow supporters and then was taken to the gymnasium at the ground.

Mr Devine said: "When we got to the gym we were told 'injuries to one side, dead to the other'."

He disagreed with John Beggs QC, representing three retired chief superintendents, that he had the option of walking back down the tunnel once he saw pen 3 was over-full.

Rajiv Menon QC, representing bereaved families of the victims later asked him: "I don't know if it's being suggested that you and other fans who arrived at this time and who chose to enter these over-full pens somehow contributed, deliberately contributed, to the overcrowding and crushing - and by extension to the the loss of life that followed - but if that is being suggested what would your response be?"

Mr Devine said: "Well I know that's not true because all we done is went through the turnstile and in the tunnel and went in to watch a football match."

He went on to tell Mr Menon that pen 2 was "not even remotely full" before he climbed over.

In his 1989 statement to West Midlands Police he listed four main points he observed surrounding the disaster.

He wrote: "One, a lack of control by police or stewards on the entrance to the ground from Leppings Lane.

"Two, a lack of or insufficient police officers and stewards inside the ground.

"Three, a lack of any contingency plans to deal with an incident of this scale.

"Four, insufficient medical personnel and equipment for such an event."

He also noted that the police operation on the approach to the ground was not of the standard of the 1988 semi-final at Hillsborough which he also attended.

He told the inquest that he stood by that account.