Previous Concerns at Hillsborough

Overcrowding on the Leppings Lane terrace at the FA Cup semi-final the year before the Hillsborough tragedy made it "impossible to breathe'', the inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters has heard.

A fan who attended the 1988 tie between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest said he freed himself from a central pen at half-time because he feared for his personal safety. 

Harry Whittall went on to write a letter of complaint to Ted Croker, the then secretary of the Football Association (FA), but the jury sitting in Warrington, Cheshire, heard he did not receive a reply. 

During the first-half he said he became ''uncomfortable'' with the density of the crowd in the Liverpool end and decided he had to leave when his umbrella snapped on a barrier. 

At half-time he stood to the side of one of the stands and listened to the match, he said. In his letter to the FA he described how ''he whole area was packed to the point where it was impossible to move''. 

He continued: ''I will emphasise that the concern over safety related to the sheer numbers admitted and not to crowd behaviour which was good. ''My concern over safety was such (at times it was impossible to breathe) that at half-time, when there was movement for toilets and refreshments etc, I managed to extricate myself from the terrace having taken the view that my personal safety was more important than watching the second half. 

''It would therefore be helpful if you could please let me know how such overcrowding, with a direct impact on crowd safety, was allowed to happen.'' 

Mr Whittall told the court he was a regular match attender and had never experienced such tight packing which he described as ''many degrees'' higher than normal. 

Coroner Lord Justice Goldring asked him: ''Given the overcrowding you have described, could you have got out before half-time?'' 

Mr Whittall replied: ''No, it was not possible. I was jammed in the crowd and until the crowd eased it was not possible.'' Crushing took place in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between the same two teams which led to the disaster.

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