The Scotsman

Man who tried to raise the alarm about suicide bomber ‘fobbed off ’

● Fam­ily tears as minute’s si­lence opens Manch­ester Arena bomb­ing inquiry

- By AN­GUS HOWARTH news­deskts@scots­man.com Crime · Terrorism · Incidents · Manchester · Athens · Quezon City · John Saunders

A man who tried to raise the alarm about suicide bomber Sal man Abedi was “fobbed off ”, and po­lice were alerted to the lone ji­hadist car­ry­ing a large ruck­sack ap­par­ently pray­ing out­side the Manch­ester Arena, the first day of the pub­lic inquiry into the ter­ror at­tack heard.

Loved ones of the 22 mur­dered in the at­tack wiped away tears as a minute’s si­lence was held, and later shook their heads as it was dis­closed mem­bers of the bomber’s fam­ily are not co-op­er­at­ing with the inquiry into the ter­ror out­rage on 22 May, 2017.

A minute’s si­lence was held after the names of the dead were read out as the inquiry, ex­pected to last into next spring, be­gan in Manch­ester, with about 12 fam­ily mem­bers in­side the hear­ing room and more watch­ing a live broad­cast at a nearby con­fer­ence cen­tre.

They were told of “missed opp or tu­ni­ties” in the hours be­fore Abedi, sur­rounded by a throng of elated young­sters leav­ing an Aria na Grande show, ex­ploded his shrap­nel-packed ruck­sack bomb at 10:31pm, send­ing thou­sands of nuts and bolts shred­ding ev­ery­thing in their path.

A mem­ber of the pub­lic had chal­lenged a man, match­ing S al­man Ab edi’s de­scrip­tion and car­ry­ing a large ruck­sack, as he looked “out of place”, the inquiry was told.

The man, iden­ti­fied only as wit­ness A, asked the sus­pect, “What are you do­ing?” but was told by the sus­pect, thought to be Abedi, he was wait­ing for some­body.

Wit­ness Athens poke to Mo­hammed Agha, em­ployed by venue se­cu­rity firm Show sec, but said he was “fobbed off ”, the pub­lic inquiry heard.

Mr A spoke to Mr Agha at 10:14 pm, some 17 min­utes be­fore the det­o­na­tion Mr Agha then spoke to a col­league, Kyle Lawler, about the mat­ter, eight min­utes be­fore the bomb went off, about what they should do.

Mr L awl er is then said to have tried to ra­dio his se­cu­rity con­trol, but could not get through.

He then saw the man get up and start walk­ing towards the arena en­trance, as young­sters be­gan stream­ing out to meet wait­ing par­ents.

Mr Lawler’s state­ment con­tin­ued: “I just froze and did not get any­thing out on the ra­dio. I knew at that point it was too late.”

Paul Gre­aney QC, coun­sel to the inquiry, said ex­perts had been asked to look into the se­cu­rity at the arena that night.

He said that the ex­perts con­cluded: “If the pres­ence of a po­ten­tial suicide bomber had been re­ported, it is very likely that mit­i­gat­ing ac­tions would have been taken that could have re­duced the im­pact of the at­tack.”

A sec­ond op­por­tu­nity arose when an­other wit­ness, Julie Mer­chant, ap­proached Bri­tish Trans­port Po­lice(BTP) of­fi­cer Jes­sica Bul­lough, about 32 min­utes be­fore the deadly bomb­ing at the Manch­ester Arena, to point out Sal man Abedi.

Sir John Saun­ders, a re­tired High Court judge, is lead­ing the probe ex­am­in­ing events be­fore, dur­ing and after the at­tack.

 ?? PIC­TURE: PETER BYRNE/PA ?? Sir John Saun­ders, chair of the inquiry, and So­phie Cartwright, deputy coun­sel, ar­rive for the start of the Manch­ester Arena bomb­ing pub­lic inquiry
PIC­TURE: PETER BYRNE/PA Sir John Saun­ders, chair of the inquiry, and So­phie Cartwright, deputy coun­sel, ar­rive for the start of the Manch­ester Arena bomb­ing pub­lic inquiry

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