Post Picture editor's record of horror of Hillsborough
The Evening Post's picture editor Steve Mitchell was working as a photographer at Nottingham Forest's game against Liverpool on April 15, 1989. As the 20th anniversary of Hillsborough approaches, he recalls the haunting scenes he witnessed both during and after the disaster which killed 96 Liverpool fans
I'd got there late. Standstill traffic and nowhere to park. There was a real edge everywhere. Queues outside packed pubs and hog roast stands, crowds being squashed onto pavements by police horses.
My girlfriend Sharon and her brother Neil shuffled towards the Forest turnstiles. I, along with fellow photographer Richard Denning, battled on to the press entrance.
Inside at last, we got busy scanning the Kop for pictures of excited Forest fans. The Kop goes on forever when you look up from the pitch, the biggest end allocated to the smaller club. I managed to pick out Sharon and Neil and gave a wave.
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The teams were out, Brian Clough standing pitchside, the atmosphere at boiling point.
Full of anxieties, I went through the ritual. Put in a fresh film, check camera settings, and get ready to run.
The split second you know which goal Forest are attacking, you sprint to get in position. Forest were already in Liverpool's penalty area when I arrived at the Leppings Lane End. I sat down and started to settle. Other photographers were joining me.
Fans behind us were shouting. This wasn't unusual. They'd paid good money, got in early for the best view, and then people plonk down in front of them. All we could do was keep as low as possible and weather the abuse.
I got a couple of pictures. Nigel tackled mid-field, Lawsy getting forward. The shouting behind was getting really loud. I turned round and saw faces and bodies pressed against the fencing.
It looked bad. It reminded me of how Forest fans had been crammed in at Old Trafford the previous round. I took a couple of shots, in case it became newsworthy afterwards.
Frame 4a of that film is Lee Chapman going up for a header. Frame 5a is a harrowing picture of victims close to death.
When I think of Hillsborough, it's always those few minutes. From the sprint to the goal to frame 5a.
Fans were trying to get over the fencing, police formed a line to stop them. A couple of lads came tumbling out and collapsed among the photographers.
The game goes on, fans now in the goalmouth and a copper running towards the referee. A couple remonstrate with Nigel Clough, Grobbelaar abandons his goal. I've grabbed my gear and walked into the six yard box.
It must be a pitch invasion. The Forest fans start booing. People are everywhere now and the players are heading for the tunnel. You can't see the fence anymore, just glimpses through the wall of police and volunteers.
I notice a lad walking out onto the pitch and sitting down in the penalty area. Fans are gasping and holding their chests. It all makes no sense.
I turn and see the lad now lying still on the cool grass. Respectfully, a jacket has been placed over his head. I stare in shocked disbelief.
I see officials with Clough and Dalglish and run to get pictures and maybe some word on what is happening. An angry fan waves his match tickets at Brian screaming that he was never asked for them. The managers are led away and police form a line across the pitch to hold everyone back.
Fans are taking action - hauling people into the upper tier, using ad boards for stretchers. Richard Denning joins me. His position at the Forest end is fast becoming a field hospital.
Anger is mounting, we're moved further back. At last, an ambulance arrives. The Forest fans fall silent as rumours of fatalities spread.
Sharon and Neil spot me and walk easily down to the front of the Kop.
Sharon asks if it's true that someone's dead. Forest Chairman Maurice Roworth sees us and gets a steward to unlock a gate so they can join me. In bitter contrast, the death toll from behind the Lepping's Lane gates is now up to nineteen.
I'm shaken to the core and just want to get out of Sheffield. We meet distraught Liverpool fans by the corner flag. They hug us and tell tearful stories of their escape.
The professionals have taken over now. There is a morgue in a leisure centre.
We pull in to Woodhall Services on the way home. Forest fans are queuing up to phone home. It's a beautiful, sunny afternoon.
A few days later, I get an urgent call. I'm going with the Forest players to visit the injured in Sheffield. Exclusive pictures are expected, but I feel like I'm really intruding. In the intensive care unit at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital we're introduced to a mum and dad. They're sleeping on camp beds in the corridor while their child fights for life.
I put away the camera at the second hospital, and help unload armfuls of flowers from Forest fans from the back of the minibus.
More than the day itself, these visits bring home the real horrors of Hillsborough.
Not much was said on the drive back to Nottingham.
The last thing on anyone's mind was a replay.