Jailed terrorist Hashem Abedi has admitted for the first time his involvement in planning the Manchester Arena bombing which killed 22 people, a public inquiry has heard.
Salman Abedi, 22, detonated a rucksack bomb in a foyer area of the arena, known as the City Rooms, at the end of an Ariana Grande concert, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds more on May 22, 2017.
His younger brother Hashem, 23, was convicted of 22 counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of conspiracy to cause an explosion following a trial in March. He was jailed for a minimum of 55 years in August.
The inquiry into the terror attack heard on December 2 that a worried father waiting to pick up his daughters raised the alarm over a young male with a heavy backpack acting suspiciously in the upper mezzanine level of the City Room foyer.
Jailed terrorist Hashem Abedi (pictured) has admitted for the first time his involvement in planning the Manchester Arena bombing which killed 22 people, a public inquiry has heard
Salman Abedi (pictured before the attack), 22, detonated a rucksack bomb in a foyer area of the arena, known as the City Rooms, at the end of an Ariana Grande concert, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds more on May 22, 2017
He told Showsec employee Mohammed Agha about his concerns 17 minutes before the blast at 10.31pm but it was not until some time after 10.20pm that Mr Agha shared the report with colleague Kyle Lawler.
Security guard Mr Lawler, who was 18 at the time, then said he tried to get through to the control room on his radio but failed and then returned to his post.
Mr Lawler previously told the inquiry that he did not approach Salman Abedi despite having a ‘bad feeling’ about him because he did not want to be branded a racist.
Independent security experts Colonel Richard Latham and Dr David BaMaung told the inquiry both men had ‘insufficient direction on how to respond or report suspicious behaviour and encouragement to act upon it’.
The inquiry, established by Home Secretary Priti Patel in October of last year, is investigating the background circumstances before and during the tragic bombing and is expected to last into next spring.
Victims (top row left to right) Elaine McIver, 43, Saffie Roussos, 8, Sorrell Leczkowski, 14, Eilidh MacLeod, 14, Nell Jones, 14, Olivia Campbell-Hardy, 15, Megan Hurley, 15, Georgina Callander, 18, Chloe Rutherford,17, Liam Curry, 19, Courtney Boyle, 19, and Philip Tron, 32, John Atkinson, 26, Martyn Hett, 29, Kelly Brewster, 32, Angelika Klis, 39, Marcin Klis, 42, Michelle Kiss, 45, Alison Howe, 45, and Lisa Lees, 43, Wendy Fawell, 50 and Jane Tweddle, 51
It is hearing evidence about the arena’s security arrangements, the ‘planning and preparation’ carried out by the Abedi brothers, the response of the emergency services, and whether the attack could have been prevented.
Giving evidence, Col Latham said: ‘It is our opinion there was insufficient supervision and direction to both Agha and Lawler.
‘Agha and Lawler should have been specifically and clearly told in briefings about what to do if a member of the public informed them about suspicious behaviour. It’s not clear that that happened.’
Mr Agha previously told the hearing he did not believe he could leave his position outside a fire door in the City Room and failed to get the attention of his supervisor who was stood across from him.
Police released CCTV showing Abedi arriving at Manchester Arena before the attack
The inquiry is hearing evidence about the arena’s security arrangements and the ‘planning and preparation’ carried out by the Abedi brothers. Pictured, Salman
Col Latham said Mr Agha should have had written instructions on what to do in those circumstances and that without a mobile phone, a radio and a supervisor he was put in a ‘difficult situation’.
He said neither man considered Abedi much of a threat and Mr Lawler was worried about being criticised for escalating something that was not a real problem and being accused of racially profiling.
Col Latham said: ‘It is very difficult when you are presented with a situation which might stop an Ariana Grande concert.
‘You don’t want to make the wrong call but it’s actually not your call to make if you are a very junior member of staff. Your job is tell someone who is really experienced.’
Both experts agreed there would have been sufficient time to close the exit doors to the City Room if a report about a suspicious male with a backpack had been acted upon.
A worried father told Showsec employee Mohammed Agha about his concerns 17 minutes before the blast at 10.31pm but it was not until some time after 10.20pm that Mr Agha shared the report with colleague Kyle Lawler (pictured). Mr Lawler, who was 18 at the time, then said he tried to get through to the control room on his radio but failed and then returned to his post
Dr BaMaung said ‘realistically’ Abedi would still have detonated his bomb but there would have been fewer casualties.
The experts also said lack of supervision was partly to blame for the ‘inadequate’ policing response of British Transport Police (BTP).
No officers were in the City Room when concertgoers departed, prolonged meal breaks were taken by officers and no-one was patrolling Victoria station before Abedi entered the City Room and hid for an hour in a CCTV blind spot, the inquiry has heard.
Dr BaMaung said: ‘I believe that it would be unfair to purely put the blame on the junior officers. I believe they did make grave errors, but I think that was down to lack of supervision as well.’
Other criticisms made by the experts were there was no proper risk assessment of the terrorist threat by arena operators SMG, arena security providers Showsec and BTP, and there was no effective system in place to identify Abedi’s hostile reconnaissance of the venue.
CCTV monitoring was also ‘insufficient’, with a failure to notice Abedi with his ‘unusually large and heavy backpack which affected his gait’, that he was overdressed for the weather, looked nervous, did not fit the audience profile and spent an extended period of time in the City Room.
The experts also found there was a failure to understand and need to complete a pre-egress check on the mezzanine.
No security checks were made on the mezzanine where Abedi hid for an hour before he walked across the City Room with his shrapnel-laden rucksack and set his bomb off, the inquiry has heard.