THE defence case of Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield has concluded after an hour and 14 minutes of evidence.

On Wednesday, Preston Crown Court heard the former chief superintendent, who is charged with the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans at the FA Cup semi-final on April 15 1989, would not be called to give evidence.

Benjamin Myers QC, defending, said: "We turn to our case. We don't call Mr Duckenfield to give evidence."

The jury heard statements from one officer - former superintendent Bernard Murray, who acted as ground commander at the match - which was read out as he has since died.

Mr Myers told the jury previously that Duckenfield, 74, is being "singled out unfairly" and had done "his best" in difficult circumstances.

In his evidence, Mr Murray described Duckenfield giving the order to open exit gates to the stadium after crowds built up at the Leppings Lane turnstiles.

The court heard that Mr Murray told the Taylor Inquiry into the disaster in 1989 that he "never considered" where fans would go once they were allowed into the stadium through exit gates, and did not appreciate they would go down the tunnel leading directly to the central pens of the terrace.

Co-defendant Graham Mackrell, the former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary, was also not called to give evidence as the court heard his defence case.

Earlier on Wednesday, the jury was told it would be directed to return a not guilty verdict for one of the two charges he faced.

Mackrell, 69, who was the club's safety officer at the time of the disaster, had been charged with contravening a term or condition of the safety certificate by failing to agree the methods of admission to be used for the west and north-west terraces ahead of the match.

But Richard Matthews QC, prosecuting, said: "The Crown, at the close of its case, accept there is insufficient evidence upon which Mr Mackrell can be convicted upon count two."

He remains on trial charged with failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The jury heard eight character references for Mackrell, including statements from former England caretaker boss Howard Wilkinson and Roy Hattersley, now Baron Hattersley, the Sheffield-born former Labour MP and now life peer.

In his statement, Mr Wilkinson, chairman of the League Managers Association and the last English manager to win the league title, said he had worked with Mackrell when he was manager of Sheffield Wednesday between 1983 and 1988.

He said: "In all respects I found Graham to be competent, proficient and trustworthy."

Lord Hattersley said he knew Mackrell during the time he was the club secretary at Sheffield Wednesday.

He said: "To the best of my knowledge and belief, Graham Mackrell performed his duties at Sheffield Wednesday with a punctilious efficiency and manner with acknowledged success."

Following the defence cases, judge Sir Peter Openshaw outlined a series of legal directions to jurors.

The jury was told it would hear closing speeches over the next week and it was likely to retire to consider verdicts on Monday March 25.

Duckenfield, of Bournemouth, denies unlawfully killing 95 supporters who died following the crush in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace at the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Twelve of those who lost their lives were from Wirral and Ellesmere Port.

Under the law at the time, there can be no prosecution for the 96th victim, Tony Bland, as he died more than a year and a day after the disaster.