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Hung jury in trial of Hillsborough tragedy police chief


London (AFP) – The police commander at the Hillsborough football stadium disaster faces a retrial after a jury on Wednesday failed to reach a verdict over his role in the deaths of 95 Liverpool fans.

Nearly 30 years to the day after the tragedy in the northern city of Sheffield, the judge in the trial of retired chief superintendent David Duckenfield discharged jurors who could not decide on 95 counts of gross negligence manslaughter.

The match-day police chief had pleaded not guilty at the 10-week trial to culpability for the fatal crush at an FA Cup tie between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough on April 15, 1989.

There is no manslaughter charge over the death of supporter Anthony Bland, as he died almost four years later and under the law in 1989 it is now “out of time” to be prosecuted.

However the jurors at Preston Crown Court in northwest England did convict a former Sheffield Wednesday club official for failing to renew the stadium’s safety certificate.

The jury, comprising six men and six women, had entered their eighth day of deliberations when they found Graham Mackrell, 69, guilty.

But they remained deadlocked over 74-year-old Duckenfield.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), England’s state prosecutors, has indicated it will seek his retrial.

In court it alleged Duckenfield had the “ultimate responsibility” for allowing the crush to occur.

But the defence argued the case was “breathtakingly unfair” and said the defendant had “tried to do the right thing”.

Dozens of relatives of the victims who had gathered in Liverpool — 25 miles (40 kilometres) away — gasped as the jury foreman told the court they could not reach a unanimous decision on Duckenfield.

There were cheers as the guilty verdict for Mackrell was announced.

Victims’ families fought a long campaign for events surrounding the disaster to be re-investigated, with the CPS announcing the decision to press charges in June 2017.

The crush was Britain’s worst sports stadium tragedy.

The final memorial at Liverpool’s Anfield stadium for the victims was held in 2016, 27 years to the day since the disaster took place.

Families of the deceased unanimously agreed the service would be the last public event at Anfield in memory of the supporters who died.

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