Security firm did not patrol spot at Manchester Arena where bomber Salman Abedi hid for nearly an hour before killing 22 people in terror attack, inquiry told
- Security failed to check area where bomber Salman Abedi hid for nearly an hour
- The killer sat out of sight in Manchester Arena before detonating his bomb
- Security provider and venue operator confused about who should’ve patrolled
Security staff failed to check an area of the Manchester Arena where bomber Salman Abedi hid for nearly an hour before he carried out his attack, an inquiry heard today.
The public inquiry into the May 2017 atrocity has heard the venue operator and its security provider had opposing views on whose responsibility it was to patrol an upstairs area of the City Room foyer.
The confusion mean Abedi was able to remain out of sight in a CCTV blind spot before he struck at the end of an Ariana Grande concert, killing 22 adults and children.
The killer hid on the mezzanine level for almost an hour before he launched the attack.
Salman Abedi at Victoria Station making his way to the Manchester Arena, on May 22, 2017. He then hid for an hour before launching his attack
The spot where Salman Abedi hid from CCTV by sitting on the ground for an hour
Abedi at Victoria Station on the evening of the attack which killed 22 people
The 22-year-old made three ‘hostile reconnaissance’ trips in the days leading up to the attack, with footage at one point showing him walking up and down in front of the entrance doors, yards from security personnel.
There was no camera focused on the mezzanine level where Abedi spent almost an hour before the attack, the inquiry was told.
The camera could be aimed at the area but if someone was standing there, you could only see their top half. Reports suggested that Abedi had been sitting.
The inquiry has been told of ‘pre-egress’ checks carried out to ensure areas were clear and safe as concert-goers left the Arena.
Salman Abedi on the night he carried out the attack, which killed 22 people and injured hundreds of others
A check sheet included the ‘station footbridge and all related routes to station platform’, as well as ‘green steps’ and ‘entire City Room area’.
Bosses at operator SMG thought Showsec staff would physically walk up the stairs as part of event day checks held before concertgoers were due to leave.
But Showsec employees say they believed their patrol duties ended at the bottom of the steps.
Showsec’s then-head of security at the Arena said it was never his understanding, and neither was it practice, for its staff to patrol that area including looking for suspicious characters.
Tom Bailey, who had worked at the Arena since 2005, told the inquiry: ‘It is my understanding, and before my time as head of security when I was a supervisor there, that was never an area that was patrolled by us.
‘We always knew knew that our jurisdiction was at the bottom of the steps.’
Asked about the apparent misunderstanding between the two organisations, he said: ‘I think one party thought one thing and the other party thought another.’
He described the working relationship with SMG and Showsec as ‘very very close’.
Mr Bailey said: ‘They knew the role of head of security inside out and I knew the role of event manager. It was such a relationship that we knew how each other operated.’
The Manchester Arena bombings inquiry has been shown footage of Salman Abedi carrying out three ‘hostile reconnaissance’ trips in the days before the attack in May 2017
Abedi, pictured with his head down, passing a woman in a red jacket, briefly walked into the venue’s City Room, before leaving moments later, during one reconnaissance trip, the inquiry heard
Footage at one point showed Abedi walking up and down in front of the entrance doors, yards from security personnel
One of Abedi’s trips came during a Take That concert, as the killer scoped out security at the venue, just days before launching the horrific attack – security experts believe he used this initial reconnaissance to identify entrance and exit routes from the Arena, check CCTV locations and may have noticed a CCTV blind spot on the raised level of the foyer
Pictured: Ambulances and police arriving to Manchester Arena following the explosion
Abedi (red circle) can be seen here as he re-entered the City Room
Last week, SMG’s duty manager for the concert, Miriam Stone, told the hearing it ‘never occurred to me until the evidence’ the ‘pre-egress’ check sheets would be read in any way other than an instruction to check the whole of the City Room.
The upper floor was previously occupied by both a McDonald’s restaurant and a call centre for retail firm JD Williams but the McDonald’s closed in December 2016.
Check sheets listed the ‘Entire City Room area including McDonald’s and JD Williams entrance’.
Mr Bailey told the inquiry: ‘When McDonald’s was there people were always around up there.
‘I think if I look back with hindsight now when McDonald’s shut, possibly there should have been a rethink of that area.’
No police officers were visible in the CCTV footage that showed Abedi walking round the arena as he plotted his attack – which killed 22 people, including children
An inquiry heard how Adedi was walking ‘with difficulty,’ as he wore the rucksack inside Manchester Arena’s public toilets
Asked whether Showsec had a responsibility to keep people in the City Room safe from terrorists, he replied: ‘Event goers. Those that were coming to events, yes.’
Inquiry chairman Sir John Saunders asked him: ‘With the staff you had on May 22 did you have a reasonable prospect of stopping a bomber who came into the City Room and never came near the doors?’
‘No,’ said Mr Bailey.
Abedi died in the blast after he detonated a rucksack bomb in the foyer on May 22.
His younger brother Hashem Abedi, now 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 public inquiry into the attack which killed 22 people and injured hundreds others is expected to last until next spring.
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