Saturday, 19 Sep 2020

Police officer 'was warned about Manchester bomber 32 minutes before attack'

A police officer was alerted to the Manchester Arena terrorist 32 minutes before he detonated the bomb that killed 22 people, the attack inquiry was told.

Experts giving evidence claim there were ‘missed opportunities’ to identify Salman Abedi, 22, with witnesses claiming they raised the flag about a man with a backpack ‘acting suspiciously’.

Yesterday Julie Merchant told the inquiry she approached British Transport Police officer Jessica Bullough around half an hour before the deadly bombing, to point Abedi out.

CCTV played to the inquiry, led by Paul Greaney QC, showed Ms Merchant approaching PC Bullough and appearing to point towards Abedi. Mr Greaney claimed Ms Merchant could not recall her conversation with the officer.

PC Bullough was later awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for bravery as the first officer to enter the arena’s foyer after the attack.

Another member of the public, William Drysdale, also spotted Abedi at a different point before the blast in May 2017 – where he believed the attacker was ‘praying’.

Two more witnesses, only known as A and B, also saw a man matching Abedi’s description acting ‘suspiciously’, the inquiry heard.

The CCTV footage captured Abedi struggling under the weight of his backpack in the moments before the attack. He appeared to be ‘adjusting wiring’, the inquiry was told.


The first missed opportunity to stop Abedi, the inquiry heard, was from a witness who had reported the attacker to security after noticing that he looked ‘out of place’.

The witness has said that he was ‘fobbed off’ by the security guard he spoke to, Mohammed Agha. Mr Agha later alerted another security officer, Kyle Lawler, eight minutes before the bomb went off, about the suspicious man thought to be Abedi.

Mr Lawler tried to alert the control room when he later saw Abedi walk into the City Room at the arena – where the bomb was detonated.

In a statement read out by Mr Greaney on Monday, Mr Lawler said: ‘I just froze and didn’t get anything out on the radio.

‘I knew at that point it was too late.’

Abedi was known to national security services and a senior MI5 agent is set to give evidence later this year.

His brother Hashem Abedi, 23, was jailed for life with a 55-year minimum sentence last month for his part in organising the deadly attack.

The inquiry is set to run until spring 2021.

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