The police chief at the Hillsborough disaster said it was "one of the biggest regrets of my life" he did not think of the consequences of allowing thousand of fans in to the ground after he ordered exit gates to be opened.

Former chief superintendent David Duckenfield, the match commander at the game, agreed to a request to open the gates to prevent crushing at the turnstiles outside the ground, the inquest in Warrington heard.

But after Gate C was opened on his orders at eight minutes before kick off, an estimated 2,000 fans poured in, heading straight for a tunnel leading directly to the already-packed central pens three and four, behind the goal.

The jury was told as many as an extra 800 fans went in to pen three alone after the gate was opened.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died following a crush on the Leppings Lane terrace of Sheffield's Hillsborough ground as the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest kicked off on April 15, 1989.

Twelve of those who died came from Wirral and Ellesmere Port.

Mr Duckenfield said he now realised "in hindsight" the "most likely" route fans would take once Gate C was open was to go down the tunnel facing them and in to the central pens.

Christina Lambert QC, counsel for the inquests, said: "You say in hindsight you recognise that's where a number of fans might have gone.

Do you think as a match commander the consequences of the decision you made, and in particular thought as to where the fans might go, is something you should have considered?"

Mr Duckenfield replied: "Ma'am, I think it is fair to say that is arguably one of the biggest regrets of my life, that I did not foresee where fans would go when they came in through the gates."

Mr Duckenfield, who has admitted he had "limited" experience of policing football matches compared with other senior officers, added: "If I had been a fully competent, experienced, knowledgeable match commander of the experience of Mr (Brian) Mole or Mr Freeman, I no doubt would have thought about it, but I was not in their position."