The Manchester Arena bomber should have been identified as a threat on the night, inquiry finds

“More should have been done” to prevent the deadly terror attack, carried out by Salman Abedi at an Ariana Grande concert in 2017

Floral tributes after a minute's silence in St Ann's Square, Manchester, to remember the victims of the terror attack in the city. A report examining security at Manchester Arena where 22 people were murdered and hundreds were injured in a suicide bombing at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017 was published today. (Photo: Ben Birchall, PA)
Floral tributes after a minute's silence in St Ann's Square, Manchester, to remember the victims of the terror attack in the city. A report examining security at Manchester Arena where 22 people were murdered and hundreds were injured in a suicide bombing at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017 was published today. (Photo: Ben Birchall, PA)

The Manchester Arena suicide bomber should have been identified as a threat at the event by those in charge of security, a public inquiry has found.

The inquiry chairman found there were several missed opportunities to prevent or minimise the “devastating impact” of the deadly 2017 terror attack, and that “more should have been done”.

Sign up to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

At a glance: 5 key points

– The people in charge of security at Manchester Arena when Salman Abedi carried out a terrorist attack in 2017 should have identified him as a threat on the night, an inquiry has found.

– Sir John Saunders, a retired judge and chairman of the inquiry, found that there were “a number of missed opportunities to alter the course of what happened that night. More should have been done.”

– Abedi carried out reconnaissance trips to the arena on three occasions, and security guards did not adequately respond to a concern raised by a member of the public about him looking nervous and “out of place” with a large backpack

– The inquiry found that Abedi would likely have detonated his device if confronted, but that this would have resulted in fewer deaths and injuries

– Manchester Arena operator, SMG, its security provider Showsec and British Transport Police were “principally” responsible for the missed opportunities, the inquiry chairman said.

What’s been said?

Sir John Saunders, chairman of the inquiry, said: “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.

“It should be remembered in relation to a number of the individuals who are subject to criticism that, once the bomb had been detonated, they went as quickly as they could into the City Room where the bomb had been detonated and did what they could to assist the victims.

“Some will say that if you look at any incident such as this in the degree of detail that I have you will inevitably find things that have gone wrong.

“That may be so, but when you are considering an event which has caused as much harm and suffering as this attack it is only right that the circumstances should be scrutinised with the greatest care

“It should not be necessary to have security to protect us from murderers who have formed the intention to kill innocent members of the public, including children, in pursuit of their distorted beliefs but, while the terrorist threat remains, and it shows no sign of going away, we do need to have in place protective measures, which provide security against the threat but do not prevent us enjoying the freedoms which are part of our way of life.”

“Everybody concerned with security at the Arena should have been doing their job in the knowledge that a terrorist attack might occur on that night. They weren’t. No-one believed it could happen to them.

“It was the responsibility of managers to ensure that the message that the threat level was ‘severe’ was refreshed in such a way that people did not become complacent about it.”

June Tron, mother of Philip Tron, 32, from Gateshead, who was killed in the attack, said: “Every life taken in this horrendous attack has destroyed the lives of those close to them and like the many other families affected we don’t want anyone else to go through what we have following the loss of Philip.

“It has been extremely hard to listen to evidence which has highlighted how our Government has failed to take extra steps to ensure security is as it should be at venues like this across the country, and how organisations who are supposedly experts in running such venues and events can make so many basic mistakes relating to safety and security.

“We hope that, as a result of this inquiry, many lessons are learned and that laws are introduced and changes made quickly to ensure people can go to a concert or a big public event in confidence that they have the best possible protection.

Paul Hett, the father of Martyn Hett, 29, who died in the arena bombing, said: “Our wonderful son Martin lost his life in the Manchester Arena attack. Since then our lives have been torn apart and we were heartbroken to find that Martin had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“We entrusted the lives of our loved ones to organisations who we believed had a duty of care to protect them.

“This inquiry has rightly found that we were failed by them on every level.

“This atrocity should and could have been prevented, and 22 people would not have lost their lives.”

Background

On 22 May 2017, Salman Abedi detonated a shrapnel-laden device in the foyer of Manchester Arena as thousands of people, including many children, were leaving an Ariana Grande concert.

Abedi had been to the Arena on three separate occasions prior to the event in order to plan his attack, and found a CCTV blind-spot on the first floor above the foyer,

On the night of the attack, dressed in black and carrying a large rucksack with an explosive device, he hid in the blind-spot for almost an hour before going downstairs.

A concerned member of the public questioned Abedi, who looked “nervous”, about what was in his backpack, but he did not reply initially, then said he was “waiting for someone” when pressed further.

The member of the public, who was waiting with his partner to pick up her daughter, raised his concerns with a security guard at around 10:15pm, but told the inquiry he felt “fobbed off”.

The chairman of the inquiry 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.”

Hundreds of people were injured and 22 were murdered.

Manchester born Abedi was assisted by his brother, Hashem Abedi, who was later convicted and is serving life imprisonment.