Jurors urged not to draw adverse inference against suspect for his lack of emotion
The jury in the trial of the former South Yorkshire police officer who was in command at Hillsborough when 96 people were killed in a crush has been told not to draw an “adverse inference against him” for showing no emotion.
David Duckenfield’s “resilient, passive and expressionless external presentation” does not indicate his state of mind, the jury was told, and there may be a “medical explanation” for it, that he has post-traumatic stress disorder.
Duckenfield, 75, is charged with the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 of the people killed in the crush on the Leppings Lane terrace at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on (April) . The judge, Sir Peter Openshaw, directed the jury that Duckenfield was likely to show no emotion during the trial, before they heard the evidence of Dolores Steele, whose son Philip, 15, was one of the 96 people killed.
“My prediction is that Mr Duckenfield will show no emotion at all, because he has not shown any physical reaction at all throughout the trial,” Openshaw told the jury of eight women and four men.
“You may have noticed that, and you may have thought it strange, or even odd. But there may be a medical explanation for that, and I think it fair that you should have it now, before we go any further and, in particular, before we hear evidence from Mrs Steele.
“It is to this effect: that on the basis of expert medical opinion it is recognized that as a sufferer of post-traumatic stress disorder, his appearance and demeanor in court should not be taken as an indication of his state of mind. “He has a resilient, passive and expressionless external presentation, which gives no indication of his state of mind, so don’t draw an adverse inference against him.”
Dolores Steele, giving her evidence, described going to the semi-final to support Liverpool with her husband, Les, and sons Philip, 15, and Brian, 13. She and Les had seats in the west stand, above the Leppings Lane terrace, where the boys had tickets and were “adamant” they wanted to stand. She said that as the crush developed in the terrace’s central “pens” 3 and 4, she could see something was wrong and then that some people were being carried out.
“To my mind, that pitch just became a battlefield,” she said. “People were coming out of the gate and then they were just lying on the pitch. I saw two people’s heads being covered up, and I presumed they had died. ”
After the match was stopped, the Steele parents met up with Brian but then spent hours looking for Philip, including “well over an hour” sitting outside a hospital morgue. Eventually they were told Philip had been taken from the hospital back to the Hillsborough football ground. Les identified Philip’s body there, at the gymnasium.
Throughout this time, Brian had been waiting by the Steeles ’car, in case his brother turned up there. Dolores Steele said “a very kind lady had gone down to him and brought him back to her home”.
The jury was later shown film footage of 24 of the victims as they approached the Leppings Lane turnstiles, then in the pens where they died. They included Thomas Howard, 39, and his son Thomas Howard jr, 14; and Richard Jones, 25, and his partner, Tracey Cox, 23 . They were shown walking through the wide exit gate C after 2. 52 pm, when it was opened to relieve a crush outside at the turnstiles.
Duckenfield, who is sitting in court with his lawyers, not in the dock, has pleaded not guilty. The trial continues.