‘It was like a warzone’: BTP officer told of ‘carnage’ after Manchester bombing with ‘nuts and bolts everywhere’ as public inquiry into terror attack hears police ‘did not know’ of Ariana Grande concert and had ‘no plans’ for event
- Around 14,000 fans were at the concert when suicide bomber Salman Abedi, 22, detonated his home-made device
- It was packed with shrapnel in the foyer known as the City Room outside the arena and killed 22 people
- The role of the police and other emergency services came under the spotlight on the second day of the inquiry in Manchester
A British Transport Officer told of the ‘carnage’ after the Manchester bombing as the public inquiry heard that police were not aware ‘at an organisational level’ about the Ariana Grande concert and had not made plans or provision for the event.
Around 14,000 fans were at the concert when suicide bomber Salman Abedi, 22, detonated his home-made device, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds of innocent bystanders on May 22, 2017.
On the second day of the inquiry in Manchester a statement from a British Transport Officer was read out to the inquiry describing the City Room – where the bomb was detonated – as a ‘war zone.’
It said: ‘There were a number of casualties on the floor, blood everywhere, and the whole place was smokey and, in my words, was carnage. There were nuts and bolts scattered everywhere.’
The role of the police and other emergency services came under the spotlight as Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, continued in his opening statement.
He said British Transport Police had ‘primacy’ in policing the area because of the proximity of Victoria Station and the inquiry must consider whether that affected preparedness for any terror attack.
Sir John said: ‘Salman Abedi (left) blew himself up in the explosion but he intended as many people as possible would die with him.’ Right: A CCTV image of Salman Abedi at Victoria Station making his way to the Manchester Arena, on May 22, 2017, where he detonated his bomb
He added: ‘GMP did not know at an organisational level of the Ariana Grande concert and had not made any provision or plan for the concert.
‘On the face of it that may seem surprising.’
Paul Greaney QC, then outlined the movements of emergency services on the night of the attack to the inquiry. He also said there had been multi-agency exercises preparing for a potential terror attack, including one in 2016 at the Trafford centre.
Mr Greaney said ‘experts have expressed serious concerns about whether the necessary lessons were learned from it’.
Another exercise, held in July 2016, rehearsed for an attack in the City Room at the arena, the exact scene of the attack in May 2017.
In the timeline outlined by Mr Greaney he saidBritish Transport Police (BTP) reacted ‘within seconds’ to the sound of the explosion.
CCTV images were shown to the jury showing a PC entering and at 10,33pm a medic is seen making her way to the city room. The inquiry was told this is thought to be Elizabeth Woodcock.
Another BTP officer enter Victoria station at 10.32pm and then two further BTP officers were seen running to the City room.
Mr Greaney said that 10 minutes after the explosion, three PCSOs and eight police constables arrive, Mr Greaney says. At 10.41pm the first armed response from Greater Manchester Police arrived.
At 10.42pm two armed officers were pictured in the Arena. A GMP Inspector took command of the operation.
At 10.47pm Operation Plato is declared and at 10.49pm a North West Ambulance Service advanced paramedic, Patrick Ennis, is shown on CCTV at Station Approach.
Salman Abedi was seen ‘adjusting wiring’ underneath his clothes in the moments leading up to the devastating terror attack which left 22 people dead on May 22, 2017
The inquiry was told that armed officers took up a defensive position in the arena. Counter-terrorism specialist officers arrived at the Arena at 10.54pm.
From 11.01am doctors attended the scene and an injured person was stretchered out of the City Room at 11.03pm, During the 11.01 to 11.11 period at least eight ambulances were present at the scene.
A NWAS Hazardous Area Response Team – HART – arrive at 11.14pm and they begin to move between casualties, the inquiry is told.
At 11.17pm John Atkinson was moved and carried to the war memorial entrance. Officers also carried Georgina Callander out of the area who was then given care by paramedics.
At 12.27am GMP Detective Chief Superintendent Denise Worth arrived. The inquiry heard how the first fire engine arrived at Manchester Arena two hours and six minutes after the explosion.
‘An important issue for the inquiry to investigate will be how that came to pass and whether it made any difference,’ Mr Greaney added.
He added: It’s important that we acknowledge the pressure that those who responded to the attack at the Arena came under.It must have been enormous.’
He added the inquiry will assess all the training exercises undertaken by the emergency services and what lessons were learned.
On the first day of the inquiry experts said there were ‘missed opportunities’ to identify Abedi as a threat and take action to stop him as witnesses claim they told officials that someone was acting suspiciously.
The hearing on day one heard that a witness, Julie Merchant, approached BTP officer Jessica Bullough (pictured) around 32 minutes before the deadly bombing, to point out Salman Abedi.
A witness, Julie Merchant, approached BTP officer Jessica Bullough, around 32 minutes before the deadly bombing, to point out Salman Abedi.
Paul Greaney QC said Ms Merchant cannot recall the details of the conversation with the officer but that it was ‘to do with praying and political correctness’.
And a man, identified only as witness A, said the suspect looked ‘out of place’ carrying a large rucksack in a crowded place. Another witness, William Drysdale, spotted Abedi in the City Room of the arena on the night of the attack, and a companion of Mr Drysdale then approached Ms Bullough, the inquiry heard.
Abedi had conducted several ‘hostile reconnaissance’ trips to the arena and the area outside it ahead of the attack on May 22, 2017, which left 22 people dead.
His first trip to the arena occurred on May 18 – the same day he arrived in the UK from Libya. In this trip, he walked into the City Room after wandering around the outside of the venue.
On May 21, the day before the attack, footage shows Abedi walking into the arena’s City Room area (pictured) before sitting on a stairwell leading up to a mezzanine area – apparently on his phone
Abedi (pictured on the day of the attack, shortly before 9pm) is pictured struggling under the weight of his backpack
It was in the City Room that Abedi, surrounded by a throng of elated youngsters leaving an Ariana Grande concert, that he exploded his shrapnel-packed rucksack bomb, sending thousands of nuts and bolts shredding everything in their path.
Chilling footage showing suicide bomber Abedi struggling under the weight of his backpack and ‘adjusting wiring’ underneath his clothes moments before he murdered 22 people has been shown on the first day of the public inquiry into the terror attack.
Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquest, said a witness had spoken to the suspicious person, asking him ‘What have you got in your rucksack?’ but received no reply.
Mr Greaney added: ‘[Witness] A 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 replied: ‘I’m waiting for somebody, mate. Have you got the time? What time is it?’
Abedi’s first trip to the arena occurred on May 18 – the same day he arrived in the UK from Libya. Pictured: Abedi (back centre) walking towards the stairs that lead up to the City Room on his first trip
On this first trip, footage shows Abedi (white cursor pointed at him) spending two minutes inside where he ‘observes queues into the Arena’ (pictured) before leaving on a tram
Witness A then spoke to Mohammed Agha, employed by venue security firm Showsec, but said he was ‘fobbed off.’
Mohammed Agha then spoke to fellow Showsec employee Kyle Lawler about the suspicious man and what they should do, the inquiry heard.
Mr Lawler is then said to have tried to radio his security control but could not get through. He then spotted the man get up and start walking towards the arena entrance.
His statement continued: ‘I just froze and did not get anything out on the radio. I knew at that point it was too late.’
Mr Greaney QC said the accounts of Showsec employees differ about what happened with ‘gaps and discrepancies’ between their accounts and the CCTV evidence captured at the arena.
Abedi, 22, was reported to police and security as acting suspiciously in the minutes before he detonated his bomb, the inquiry heard, but no action was taken.
Mr Greaney said that ‘of considerable importance, the experts consider, on the basis of the information currently available to them, that, on May 22, there were missed opportunities to identify Salman Abedi as a threat and take mitigating action.’
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’ve been taken that could have reduced the impact of the attack.
‘This is because there was sufficient time between Abedi first being spotted by, and also reported to (security) staff and his attack to effectively react.’
Mr Greaney said: ‘The evidence about these potential missed opportunities will need to be considered with the greatest possible care.’
He said whether there were ‘missed opportunities’ to prevent the attack or reduce its deadly impact would be a key consideration for the inquiry, which began on Monday.
Loved ones of the 22 people who died in the bombing stood in silent remembrance as the names of the victims were recited at the opening of the hearings.
The sombre proceedings began with Mr Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, reading the names of each of those murdered by suicide bomber Salman Abedi on May 22 2017.
Sir John Saunders, a retired High Court judge, is leading the probe examining events before, during and after the attack at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.