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Manchester bombing inquiry: Dad ‘fobbed off’ when he warned about suspicious man

Written by on 7 September 2020

A father who approached a man matching the Manchester Arena bomber’s description has said he was “fobbed off” by security when he told them about his concerns.

The concertgoer, who can be named only as witness A, said he approached a man resembling Salman Abedi because he looked “out of place” on the night of the 22 May 2017 attack.

Witness A said the suspicious man was carrying a large rucksack in the crowded venue where the Ariana Grande concert took place, the public inquiry into the bombing heard.

Inquiry counsel tells of guard seeing suspicious man

The last picture of Salman Abedi, moments before the bomb went off
Image:
Salman Abedi is seen moments before the bomb went off

Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, said in the opening hearing: “(The witness) asked the man, what have you got in your rucksack, but got no reply.

“(The witness) then said, ‘It doesn’t look very good you know, you with a bag in a place like this. What are you doing?”

The man is said to have replied: “I’m waiting for somebody, mate. Have you got the time? What time is it?”

Witness A said he was “fobbed off” by security worker Mohammed Agha when he warned him about the suspicious man, the inquiry heard.

More from Hashem Abedi

The witness had spoken to Mr Agha at 10.14pm, some 17 minutes before the detonation.

Mr Agha then spoke to his colleague Kyle Lawler about the matter eight minutes before the bomb went off.

But neither security control, nor anyone else, was informed about the suspicious activity, the hearing was told.

The Manchester suicide bomber has been named as Salman Abedi
Image:
Abedi killed 22 people after detonating a bomb in the Manchester Arena

Mr Lawler is said to have tried to radio his security control but could not get through after he was made aware of the suspicious man.

He then spotted the man get up and start walking towards the arena entrance.

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

Mr Greaney said: “Why did Mohammed Agha and Kyle Lawler not inform the control room or anyone else between 10.14pm and 10.31pm about the report from witness A of a suspicious male, with backpack, on the mezzanine level of the city room?

“If their failure to do so was culpable, was that the result of inadequate training and/or instruction or, instead, the consequence of individual error of ineptitude?”

What we can expect from the public inquiry

What we can expect from the public inquiry

The barrister asked whether there were other “missed opportunities” to identify Abedi.

He also asked whether there were enough British Transport Police officers on patrol in the area at the time and what would have happened if the control had been informed of Abedi acting suspiciously.

A Police van carrying Hashem Abedi the younger brother of Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi arrives at Westminster Magistrates' Court
Image:
Hashem Abedi, pictured, has been jailed for life

Mr Greaney said the accounts of Mr Agha and Mr Lawler, who were employed by the Showsec security firm, differ about what happened.

He added there are “gaps and discrepancies” between their accounts and the CCTV evidence captured at the arena.

Witness A and another person, named in the inquiry as witness B, had taken their daughter to the concert.

The victims of the Manchester terror attack

The victims of the Manchester terror attack

Families of the 22 people murdered in the terror attack gathered in the city on Monday for the beginning of the public inquiry.

Suicide bomber Abedi, who was 22, detonated a shrapnel-packed rucksack bomb in the venue.

The names of his 22 victims were read out before a minute’s silence at the start of the inquiry.

Manchester bombing sentence

‘We are the ones with a life sentence’

Abedi was known to the security services.

A senior MI5 officer, known only as witness J, is expected to give evidence to the inquiry later this year.

The bomber’s brother Hashem Abedi, now 23, was jailed for life with a minimum 55 years before parole last month for his part in the deadly plot.

He helped source, buy, stockpile and transport the components for his brother’s bomb.

The inquiry is being held with unprecedented arrangements to ensure social distancing is observed by the families of the deceased, their lawyers and others representing public bodies, witnesses and the media.