The Police Response
Superintendent Marshall was in overall command outside the ground. His record of the day reveals a heavy emphasis on the amount of alcohol being consumed by Liverpool fans. This emphasis was to become the main observation of the police version of events of the day and was the opposite of fans recollections and subsequent forensic evidence.
As conditions worsened fans were increasingly distressed. Those on the inside were struggling to breathe as the numbers swelled. Whilst on the outside the volume of those trying to enter at the Leppings lane end increased by the minute. An officer requested that the kick - off be delayed in order to reassure the crowd that there was no urgency. The request was denied. An inspector asked that the exit gates be opened in order to relieve the pressure outside. Marshall was reluctant to take this course of action because it would allow uncontrolled access to the stadium.
Fans accounts of the scenes outside the Leppings lane area point almost universally to a lack of organisation and control. Trapped in a bottleneck, quite literally, they had nowhere to go except where the momentum of the crowd led them. The fear of fans caught in this situation outside can only be matched by those struggling to survive on the inside.
Eventually Marshall radioed through to Chief Superintendent Duckenfield who was in overall command on the day (despite the fact that he had minimal experience of policing football and absolutely no experience of such a big game) and requested that the exit gates be opened. Duckenfield hesitated (he would later give evidence stating that he 'froze') but eventually gave the order: 'Open the gates'.