Manchester Arena inquiry: ‘Big hole’ in security measures ‘left staff unable to stop bomber’

There was a “big hole” in the security measures at Manchester Arena, which left staff with “no reasonable prospect” of stopping the bomber, an inquiry has heard.

Staff would “profile” concertgoers at the doors of the venue but did not conduct patrols around the City Room foyer area where suicide bomber Salman Abedi waited for an hour before the attack.

He was spotted by a concerned member of the public who alerted the stewards but no further action was taken.

The bomber sits on a low wall in the arena's foyer

Thomas Bailey, one of two heads of security for Showsec, the company in charge of security for the event, accepted there was a gap in the safety measures.

Mr Bailey told the Manchester Arena inquiry staff would quiz concertgoers at the doors to the arena, but not in the foyer.

They would ask customers who did not fit the audience demographic to name their favourite song or their favourite band member.

Nick de la Poer QC, for the inquiry said: “In the City Room itself that is impossible, doesn’t it require a different strategy?”

Mr Bailey agreed: “It is difficult to police a public area, to do it correctly. I couldn’t say what type of resource, what kind of surveillance you would need.”

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, where Abedi remained out of sight from CCTV cameras before he struck at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.

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.

Mr Bailey said it was never his understanding, and neither was it practice, for its staff to patrol that area including looking for suspicious characters, although check sheets listed the: “Entire City Room area including McDonald’s and JD Williams entrance”.

He said: “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.

Abedi is seen in a lift on the night of the attack

“We always 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.”

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.”

The chairman, Sir John Saunders, asked: “With the staff on then, did you have a reasonable prospect of stopping a bomber who came into the City Room and never came near the doors?”

“No,” Mr Bailey said.

The inquiry was told that Showsec had originally trained all its stewards over a two-day course at hotels they booked out.

They switched to “e-learning”, largely conducted by prospective stewards in their own time on their mobile phones, after developing an “affiliation” with Derby University in 2012.

The inquiry continues.

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