Hillsborough jury to mull unlawful killing verdict

Hillsborough disaster (AFP)
Hillsborough disaster (AFP)

London - British jurors at the inquiry into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster were told Monday that they will be able to consider a verdict of unlawful killing as the hearing entered its closing stages.

A total of 96 Liverpool fans were killed as a result of the tragedy, which occurred at the beginning of an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in April 1989 and was the worst sporting disaster in British history.

For nearly two years, a jury of seven women and three men have been considering a mass of evidence relating to the disaster.

They will be sent out to consider their verdicts on February 22 after the coroner, senior judge John Goldring, has finished summing up.

On Monday, Goldring told them one of the central questions they will have to resolve is around the conduct of David Duckenfield, the senior officer in charge of policing the match.

Goldring outlined four questions about Duckenfield's conduct which they would have to answer in the affirmative if they were to conclude that fans were unlawfully killed.

In March last year, Duckenfield apologised at the hearing to the families of the Liverpool supporters who died at Hillsborough after lying about how the tragedy unfolded.

He had ordered the opening of a side gate into the ground after being told that a pre-match crush outside could lead to deaths.

But shortly after, Duckenfield had a meeting with the Football Association governing body's boss Graham Kelly, telling him that fans had "got in through the gates" -- without saying it was he who had authorised it.

Under English law, an inquest exists to determine the cause of death but it cannot impose criminal sentences.

The original coroner's verdicts were quashed in 2012 amid claims of a police cover-up, following a campaign by victims' families.

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