Manchester Arena suicide bomber Salman Abedi should have been identified as a threat on the night of the attack by those in charge of security who were guilty of ‘serious shortcomings’, a public inquiry into the May 2017 attack found today.
In his report examining security arrangements at the venue where 22 people were murdered and hundreds were injured at the end of an Ariana Grande concert, inquiry chairman Sir John Saunders found there were a number of missed opportunities to prevent or minimise the ‘devastating impact’.
Sir John said he considered it likely Salman Abedi would still have detonated his device if confronted ‘but the loss of life and injury is highly likely to have been less.’
Abedi at Victoria Station making his way to the Manchester Arena, on May 22, 2017, where he detonated his bomb
In the hour before bomber Salman Abedi struck, killing 22, he waited at the back of the City Room foyer before his attack when stewards failed to respond after a worried parent pointed him out
Sir John today recommended that venues could have to pay for their own private sector advice and then for a separate audit of the measures.
He also called on councils to re-enforce their licensing inspections to ensure that venues deliver on the security they promise when the license is granted.
The legislation, known as a ‘protect duty’ is backed by senior police officers and the Home Office.
The law would impose a ‘mandatory duty on those responsible for a publicly accessible location to consider the security and safety of those who visit there or are present there for some other reason.’
Sir John said: ‘No-one knows what Salman Abedi would have done had he been confronted before 10.31pm. We know that only one of the 22 killed entered the City Room before 10.14pm. Eleven of those who were killed came from the Arena concourse doors into the City Room after 10.30pm.’
He added: ‘The security arrangements for the Manchester Arena should have prevented or minimised the devastating impact of the attack. They failed to do so. There were a number of opportunities which were missed leading to this failure.
‘Salman Abedi should have been identified on 22nd May 2017 as a threat by those responsible for the security of Arena and a disruptive intervention undertaken. Had that occurred, I consider it likely that Salman Abedi would still have detonated his device, but the loss of life and injury is highly likely to have been less.’
Sir John added: ‘I have concluded that there were serious shortcomings in the security provided by those organisations which had responsibility for it and also failings and mistakes made by some individuals.
‘When the mistakes and shortcomings set out in the report are considered, it needs to be at the forefront of that consideration that responsibility for what happened, and for causing so many deaths and serious injuries, lies with Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber, and his brother Hashem, who assisted him with the preparations. Hashem Abedi is now serving sentences of life imprisonment for offences including the murders of 22 people.
‘The brothers intended to cause as much harm as they could. No other person or organisation acted with the intention of causing any injury or with any idea their actions or lack of action would or could assist a suicide bomber to carry out his evil intentions.’
Undated handout file photos issued by Greater Manchester Police of the 22 victims of the terror attack during the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena in May 2017. (top row left to right) Off-duty police officer Elaine McIver, 43, Saffie Roussos, 8, Sorrell Leczkowski, 14, Eilidh MacLeod, 14, (second row left to right) Nell Jones, 14, Olivia Campbell-Hardy, 15, Megan Hurley, 15, Georgina Callander, 18, (third row left to right), Chloe Rutherford,17, Liam Curry, 19, Courtney Boyle, 19, and Philip Tron, 32, (fourth row left to right) John Atkinson, 26, Martyn Hett, 29, Kelly Brewster, 32, Angelika Klis, 39, (fifth row left to right) Marcin Klis, 42, Michelle Kiss, 45, Alison Howe, 45, and Lisa Lees, 43 (fifth row left to right) Wendy Fawell, 50 and Jane Tweddle, 51
He said Arena operator SMG, its security provider Showsec and British Transport Police, who patrolled the area adjoining Manchester Victoria rail station, were ‘principally responsible’ for the missed opportunities.
He added: ‘Across these organisations, there were also failings by individuals who played a part in causing the opportunities to be missed.’
Manchester-born Abedi, of Libyan descent, walked across the City Room foyer of the venue towards the main doors and detonated his shrapnel-laden device, packed into his bulging rucksack, at 10.31pm on May 22 just as thousands, including many children, left the concert.
Hearings at the public inquiry into the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the attack have been ongoing in the city since September last year.
In the hour before bomber Salman Abedi struck, killing 22, he waited at the back of the City Room foyer before his attack when stewards failed to respond after a worried parent pointed him out.
British Transport Police officers were supposed to be present in the foyer at the end of the concert, but they took a two-hour meal break on the night of attack and were patrolling the nearby station when the bomb went off.
Two officers drove five miles to get a kebab during a two-hour meal break on the night of attack while two others took a 90-minute meal break.
Duncan Atkinson QC, on behalf of the families of the victims, HAS accused the police, Manchester Arena and their security staff of ‘serious, unacceptable and unjustifiable failures’.
But Showsec, the security company, and British Transport Police, both claimed that their presence in the City Room would have done nothing to stop Abedi setting off his bomb.
SMG, the arena operator, complained that it had been portrayed as ‘the worst type of Dickensian factory owner’ for trying to find ‘efficiency costs’ and Showsec claimed it did not have responsibility for protecting parents waiting for their children – who made up half of the 22 victims.
Showsec was accused by the families of the victims of a ‘wholly unsatisfactory’ approach to training their staff, most of whom earned around the minimum wage.
All three of the security guards who failed to stop the Manchester Arena bomber had skipped through their counter-terrorism training, the inquiry into the attack heard.
Scenes close to Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017 following the terror attack at the end of an Ariana Grande concert
One of them, Kyle Lawler, told the inquiry that he was worried that if he did approach Abedi he might be branded a racist.
Showsec is one of the largest stewarding and security companies in the country and provides staff for venues including Manchester City’s ground and Twickenham stadium, the inquiry was told.
The company, which is Dutch owned, has a turnover of £25m and makes profit if £1.2m after payments to directors.
However, their counter-terrorism training for their 4,000 casual staff was delivered online and no one checked if it was properly completed.
The training, largely completed on mobile phones, included two films and was supposed to take at least 45 minutes, but Mohammed Agha completed his in 8mins 23 secs, Mr Lawler in 6mins 31 secs and Mr Atkinson in 3 mins 38 secs.
The inquiry heard that Showsec were relying on a university to provide the training module which was ‘hosted’ by a company called Marked Improvement.
Up to and including the time of the attack, Showsec did not monitor how long potential staff took to complete the course.