Hillsborough tragedy: David Duckenfield found not guilty of gross negligence manslaughter in retrial

David Duckenfield, the match commander at the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, has been found not guilty of gross negligence manslaughter by a jury at Preston Crown Court on Thursday.

A jury of seven women and three men were sent out on Monday to consider their verdict and returned to find former Chief Superintendent Duckenfield not guilty.

Judge Sir Peter Openshaw had told the jury to take no inference from the fact that Duckenfield, 75, had not given evidence at the trial, as he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

At the conclusion of the first trial in March, a jury were discharged and a retrial later ordered after they were unable to return a unanimous decision, nor a majority verdict.

Duckenfield had denied the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans at the FA Cup semifinal against Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough on April 15, 1989. A 96th victim, Tony Bland, died more than a year after the disaster and under the law at the time, no prosecution can be brought.

The court had heard that Duckenfield, then with South Yorkshire Police, ordered the opening of the exit gates to the ground after crowds had built outside. A fatal crush then occurred after more than 2,000 supporters entered Hillsborough. Many supporters tried to make their way to a central pen at the ground via a tunnel.

At the first trial, ex-Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell, who denied a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act, was found guilty of breaching his safety duty regarding the allocation of seven turnstiles used by Liverpool fans. He was fined £6,500 and became the first person to be convicted of an offence relating to the tragedy.

In a statement released on Thursday, Liverpool football club said: "Following today's verdict at Preston Crown Court, we would like to commend the bereaved families, survivors and campaigners for the remarkable courage, dignity and resilience they have shown during the past three decades.

"With further related legal proceedings listed for April and the restriction for commentary, we share the reactions and frustrations by the families today and those affected by the Hillsborough tragedy.

"We have immense admiration for the Hillsborough families, survivors and campaigners for what they have achieved, and our thoughts remain with them and those 96 Liverpool supporters who went to watch their team and never came home."

Meanwhile, Margaret Aspinall -- chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group -- said: "I'm really angry. I'm trying to be calm for the sake of these families, who have suffered so much ... They've gone through hell, they've gone through all kinds.

"Please God, give them some peace. They deserve it."