Hero cop alerted to terrorist 'praying' 32 minutes before Manchester Arena bomb detonated killing 22

A HERO police officer was alerted to Manchester Arena terrorist Salman Abedi "praying" 32 minutes before detonating a bomb and killing 22 people at a concert.

The first day of an inquiry heard yesterday the sighting was one of two missed opportunities to stop Abedi, 22, unleash carnage by blowing himself up.

Security staff William Drysdale and Julie Merchant spotted Abedi around 9.41pm wearing a large backpack before he detonated a suicide bomb at an Ariana Grande concert.

Mr Drysdale believed the jihadist killer was "praying", Paul Greaney, QC, counsel to the inquiry into the May, 2017 massacre, said.

Ms Merchant was seen on CCTV approaching PC Jessica Bullough, a British Transport Police constable, and appearing to point towards Abedi.

PC Bullough was seen on CCTV speaking with Ms Merchant after the security worker approached her,but couldn't remember the conversation/

The courageous PC was the first police officer to enter the arena's City Room foyer after the attackand was later awarded the Queen's police medal for bravery.

'FOBBED OFF'

A member of the public felt “fobbed off” when he reported a man matching Abedi's appearance to security.

Witness A said the man had a rucksack and looked “out of place”.

The onlooker had asked the man: “What have you got in your rucksack? It doesn’t look very good, you know what you see with bombs and such, you with a rucksack in a place like this.

"What are you doing?”

'FOBBED OFF'

The man replied: “I’m waiting for somebody, mate”, then asked: “Have you got the time?”

Witness A then approached a member of the security team, Mohammed Agha, who "did not seem interested in what he had to say and he felt, in his words, fobbed off", the inquiry heard.

Witness A and his wife, witness B, were at the concert to collect their daughter and her pal.

His wife had suggested moving away from the man because he looked suspicious.

What have you got in your rucksack? It doesn’t look very good, you know what you see with bombs and such, you with a rucksack in a place like this

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

Mr Lawler told police they had been alerted to the man with the backpack who "didn't belong there".

It comes as the inquiry heard Greater Manchester Police weren't aware "at an organisational level" about the Ariana Grande concert and hadn't made plans for it.

Experts who looked into security at the arena that night believe there were "missed opportunities to identify Salman Abedi as a threat and take mitigating action", Mr Greaney said.


Mr Greaney said: "The suspicious man looked at him, and he thought he should get away from his line of sight and call the control room.

"He attempted to make a call but the radio became too busy. He then saw the man with the backpack get up and walk to the arena."

No BTP officers werepatrolling the railway station between 9.15pm and 9.37pm, the inquiry heard.

Abedi made his final approach from the Metrolink platform to the arena at this time before launching the horrific attack. 

The families 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 bomber's brother, Hashem Abedi, now 23, was last month jailed for life with a minimum 55 years before parole, for his part in the deadly bomb plot, which left hundreds of others injured.

Some evidence, involving information judged to be potentially of use to terrorists, is subject to restriction orders, and those hearings will be closed to the public.

The most sensitive evidence is likely to be heard at closed hearings, with both press and public excluded because of the risk to national security.


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