Steward 'knew it wasn't invasion'

The memorial outside Hillsborough Stadium

The memorial outside Hillsborough Stadium

First published in National News © by

A life-saving chief steward at the fateful 1989 FA Cup semi-final said he knew immediately the unfolding tragedy was not a pitch invasion, the Hillsborough inquests have heard.

John Castley was in charge of Sheffield Wednesday's Spion Kop stand and said he could see from the opposite end of the stadium that "something was wrong…something was badly wrong" in the Leppings Lane end shortly after the match kicked off.

It led him to dash across the pitch to give first aid while police officers numbering "hundreds" formed a cordon as injured fans were left unattended, the court was told.

There Mr Castley successfully gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to one young man who he said had stopped breathing.

Giving evidence at the hearing into the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters, the witness said that shortly before 3pm he had heard information, albeit false, that fans had broken down a gate at Leppings Lane.

Minutes later he saw fans climbing over the fencing at the Leppings Lane end and saw others being pulled into the upper seated area.

He said: "I thought that something was wrong…something was badly wrong. It didn't look like a pitch invasion."

The inquests have already heard that a police superintendent subsequently ran on to the pitch to stop the match and the players of Liverpool and Nottingham Forest were taken off.

As injured fans began to be led away on makeshift stretchers of advertising hoardings, Mr Castley - who has first aid training - said he ran on the pitch to help fans who had been crushed.

He said: "There were lots of injured people there and there were a few people people trying to help them but there were lots of people crying."

Mr Castley said he successfully provided mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a young man who he said had stopped breathing

"I was trying for some time and he eventually coughed and spluttered," he said.

He told the jury sitting in Warrington that he was unsuccessful in trying to revive another man, aged in his mid-20s, as he gave heart compressions alongside a fellow helper who did mouth-to-mouth.

Stephen Simblet, representing some of the bereaved families, asked Mr Castley: "You expect as a steward for the the police to be in a position to do something useful if a problem arises?"

The witness replied: "Yes, that's correct."

The barrister continued: "And the problem did arise and you noticed from as far away as the opposite end of the football ground from where the problem was arising. What you saw was people being pulled up and you never thought from that position it was a pitch invasion?"

Mr Castley replied: "No, I did not."

Mr Simblet put it to the witness: "We know there was not a pitch invasion. What action was called for was not people riding across on police horses but to provide emergency attention to those who were in crisis, wasn't it?"

"Yes," said Mr Castley.

The jury heard that Mr Castley gave a statement to the 1989 Lord Justice Taylor Inquiry into the disaster and was asked if he he had any views on the way the disaster was handled after the match was stopped.

Mr Castley told the inquiry: "More police officers should have rendered first aid."

The inquests heard that Mr Castley could not recall who told him that Liverpool fans had forced open a gate on the day of the tragedy - when in fact the senior police officer in charge had ordered it to be opened to allay overcrowding outside the ground.

The hearing continues tomorrow.

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