The match commander in charge of policing during the Hillsborough disaster has denied taking part in a "cover-up" that left fans facing the blame for decades after the tragedy.

Former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield told an inquest into the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters that there had been "no conspiracy" to hide the truth about senior officers' failings.

Giving evidence for a third day to an inquest jury in Warrington, Mr Duckenfield said he could not explain his decision not to admit to Football Association Chief Executive Graham Kelly that he had authorised an exit gate to be opened, allowing around 2,000 fans into already overcrowded pens.

The 70-year-old former senior officer was watched by around 150 relatives of the victims, who sat listening to charged exchanges as the witness was questioned closely about his account of events on the day of the disaster.

Mr Duckenfield apologised unreservedly to the families of the victims on Wednesday after admitting a "terrible lie" and misleading others minutes after the disaster unfolded on April 15, 1989.

Answering questions by Rajiv Menon QC, representing the families of 75 Hillsborough victims, Mr Duckenfield said that at the time he spoke to Mr Kelly in the police control box, he was concentrating on mounting a rescue operation.

Mr Menon put it to Mr Duckenfield that there had been a "false narrative" after the disaster which sought to blame Liverpool fans for what had happened and conceal the truth about police failings.

After pausing to consider his answer, Mr Duckenfield replied: "I disagree. There was no conspiracy as far as I am concerned."

Rejecting claims that he suspected there were fatalities by the time he spoke to Mr Kelly, Mr Duckenfield added: "I don't think I was involved in any cover-up whatsoever.

"My main objective was a rescue operation and to do the very best I could for all concerned. It was chaotic, hectic, stressful."

After claiming that no one in the court room who would understand the position he found himself in, Mr Duckenfield was asked why he had concealed the truth from Mr Kelly.

"Sir, I said yesterday, I don't know," Mr Duckenfield responded.

Mr Menon then said to the former officer: "That's not the way that a competent match commander behaves, is it Mr Duckenfield, lying to the chief executive of the Football Association when people are dying on the pitch feet away?"

Mr Duckenfield answered: "Sir, under normal circumstances, as I have said, outside in the street or in an office, it is not the normal way you would expect.

"But we are not talking about normal circumstances, we are talking about a massive tragedy and me doing my best under very difficult circumstances."

It was then put to Mr Duckenfield that he had made a catastrophic mistake in failing to close off a leading tunnel underneath Hillsborough's West Stand to the Leppings Lane terracing.

Mr Duckenfield told Mr Menon he had admitted his failings to the inquest and had always been "honest and frank" about his conversation with Mr Kelly.

Asked if he had always been consistent in his account of what he said in the control box, the 70-year-old said: "It may be that my recollections over 26 years, or what I have said about Mr Kelly, may vary, and, dare I say it, understandably."