A SENIOR officer who was in charge of policing Liverpool fans outside Hillsborough football stadium on the day of the 1989 disaster has said he had "profound regrets" that he did not ask for the match kick-off to be delayed.

Former superintendent Roger Marshall made several radio requests for three exit gates to be opened as congestion built up outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles shortly ahead of the kick-off and is said to have said somebody would be "killed if the gates weren't opened".

He told the inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters that asking for the 3pm kick-off to be put back was an option open to him.

He said: "I could certainly have requested a delay of kick-off.

"I can tell you that it was one of the most profound regrets of my experience at Leppings Lane on the 15th of April that I did not do so."

Christina Lambert QC, counsel for the inquests in Warrington, asked him: "In what circumstances do you understand you could request a delay in kick-off?"

Mr Marshall replied: "Mr Duckenfield's (match commander David Duckenfield) policy was that if there had been fog on the Pennines or there had been a serious accident on the motorway which would have resulted in very, very large numbers of people being delayed, then for that reason kick-off would be delayed.

"I think it would have been possible for me to seek a delay in the kick-off given the numbers that were besieging the turnstiles."

Exit Gate C was opened at 2.52pm on the orders of Mr Duckenfield, with the jury hearing that an estimated 2,000 Liverpool fans came through and "a significant number" headed for a central tunnel leading to the terraces of pens three and four behind the goal.

The inquest has heard evidence that the central tunnel was unmanned by police or stewards, with no one directing supporters to the flanking tunnels, and that pens three and four were the scene of the fatal crush at the match between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool.

In a timeline of events presented to the jury of seven women and four men at the beginning of the inquests, Mr Marshall asked for the road near Leppings Lane, Sheffield, to be closed to traffic at 2.17pm, which it was at 2.30pm.

At 2.40pm Mr Marshall climbed on to the parapet of a nearby bridge over the River Don to get a better view of the scene. A large crowd had built up in the area immediately outside the turnstiles.

Two minutes later he called up reinforcements and asked for a Land Rover with a portable public address system to broadcast a request to stop pushing. The crowd remained tightly packed.

At 2.47pm Mr Marshall radioed the police control room and asked for permission to open the exit gates A, B and C to permit people to come in to ease the pressure and prevent injury. Mr Marshall made a second request for the gates to be opened.

He repeated his request a third time, saying that somebody would be "killed if the gates weren't opened".

The Hillsborough inquests began at Birchwood Park, Warrington, on March 31 and are due to conclude next July.

The evidence of Mr Marshall, who was the most senior officer outside the ground on the day, is expected to last two days.