The police chief in charge on the day of Britain's Hillsborough disaster told an inquest on 11 March he apologises unreservedly after admitting a "terrible lie" about the way the tragedy unfolded.

96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield in 1989.

At an inquest at Warrington Coroner's Court, former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, who was the match commander for the fateful match, admitted he lied about fans forcing a gate open.

"It was a grave mistake and I apologise profusely," the 70-year-old said, prompting gasps of horror from the victims' families who were attending the inquest in Warrington.

"Everybody knew the truth, the fans and police knew the truth that we'd opened the gates," said Duckenfield.

Many campaigners and relatives of the victims of the disaster, said the apology came too late.

Duckenfield admitted he gave the order to open gates allowing 2,000 fans massing outside the turnstiles into the ground in the minutes before the fatal crush on the Leppings Lane terrace of Sheffield's Hillsborough ground as the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest kicked off on April 15 1989.

Inquests have heard he was promoted just weeks before the match.

He said he had "no idea" what had made him lie and apologised unreservedly to the families.

"(It is) one of the biggest regrets of my life," Duckenfield added, referring to his failure to consider the consequences of opening the gate.

"I think it's fair to say that I was overcome by the enormity of the situation and the decision I had to make and as a result of that, this is probably very hard to admit, I was so overcome probably with emotion of us having got into that situation that my mind for a moment went blank."

The Taylor Report in 1990 concluded that the main cause of the disaster was the failure of police control.

It prompted major changes in safety standards at stadiums in Britain with perimeter fencing removed and many grounds converted to all-seater.