The Hillsborough inquests commenced on March 31, 2014 and are the subject of reporting restrictions that have been imposed by the Attorney General's office. Liverpool Football Club is respectful of these restrictions and will therefore only be making available updates from other media channels for the duration of the inquest.

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Courtesy of Press Association - July 8

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 "the 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.

Liverpool fan Brian Scarretts also attended the 1988 tie and recalled trying to access the tunnel leading to the central pens at Leppings Lane about five minutes before kick off when he and his friends were blocked by up to six police officers.

He said: "We explained we wanted to gain access to the ground. At the time they said the pens were full and to make our way to other entrances to the terracing.

"They were saying it to everybody. Nobody got through that tunnel in my view."

Another Liverpool supporter, Thomas Matthews, told the inquests that he too was unable to access the central tunnel shortly before kick off.

He said a line of police officers - up to five - were in front of him and he was directed to a side entrance because the central pens were full.

The jury has previously heard that a "significant number" of an estimated 2,000 fans let in by police through an exit gate in 1989 approached the terraces up the same tunnel to the already crowded pens.

Today, the court was also told of letters written by a number of fans, now deceased, regarding the 1981 FA Cup semi-final between Tottenham Hotpsur and Wolverhampton Wanderers staged at Hillsborough.

The jury has already seen video footage of Spurs fans spilling on to the pitch as the game progressed due to overcrowding in the Leppings Lane.

Martin Taylor wrote to South Yorkshire Police shortly after the Hillsborough tragedy and copied the letter to the Football Association and then Home Secretary Douglas Hurd.

He said he spent the first half trying to keep his footing and the fact that a match was taking place was "irrelevant".

He added: "Throughout that 45 minutes people were pleading with the police to open the gate in the fence to relieve the pressure which was unbearable."

He said he had attended football matches since 1967 but said he had not gone to a live match since the 1981 tie because of his experience.

In 1989, Ronald Welsh wrote to West Midlands Police - who were conducting an investigation into South Yorkshire Police's handling of the tragedy - and described how he was crushed at the front of the Leppings Lane terrace in 1981 and was pulled out when police opened a perimeter gate.

He wrote: "I remember a girl, with others screaming, caught in the railings trying to get on to the pitch having her clothes torn and having blood streaming from her arm and other injuries."

In 1981, Brian Thomas wrote to then minister of sport, Hector Munro, and explained that by 3pm "the situation was terrifying".

He said: "Women and children were being crushed, including one of my friends' son.

"I am tall, able to take care of myself but I felt my ribs cracking at one stage.

"Eventually I was afraid I was going to collapse and had to force my way out to the back where I found hundreds of people unable to enter the terrace and with no hope of seeing the game."

The inquests will resume on Thursday.