Manchester Arena security ‘fobbed off’ father’s concern about bomber just before blast that killed 23 Ariana Grande fans
Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi was reported to security by a witness before detonating a bomb that killed and injured dozens of Ariana Grande fans, but concerns were “fobbed off” by stewards, a public inquiry was told.
Abedi killed 23 people and injured many more by detonating an explosive as fans left the arena on May 22, 2017.
It has now emerged that the 22-year-old was spotted by two fathers waiting to collect their daughters from the concert, with one man directly confronting him and raising concerns with security.
Christopher Wild was at the arena with his partner to pick up their 14-year-old daughter and her friend. He told the inquiry they had seen a man with a rucksack, apparently hiding, as they walked across the mezzanine level.
His partner said to him at the time: “It’s a kids’ concert, why should he be sat there with a massive rucksack out of sight of everyone? It’s just very strange.”
Wild confronted the man, telling him: “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?”
Abedi said that he was waiting for someone, and asked Wild for the time. The father then walked away from Abedi and approached Showsec steward Mohammed Agha, who was standing on the main floor of the foyer, below the mezzanine.
“He said he already knew about him, that was about it really,” Wild said.
“In your statement you said: ‘I felt I was being fobbed off really’ — is that still how it feels?” asked Paul Greaney QC.
“Yes,” Wild replied. “It was as if he had more important things to deal with — but in no way do I blame him because the guy was already in there, there was nothing more he could do.”
Second witness suspected Salman Abedi after seeing him at the concert.
Another father, Neil Hatfield, also witnessed the bomber but told the inquiry he thought security were handling it.
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Hatfield said “alarm bells in my head just went straight away” when he noticed a young man carrying a bag containing something “rock solid”. But he believed two security guards below were aware of the man and that “they were going to do something about it”.
“It sort of gave me a bit of relief, but I was still watching him. I looked him in his eyes and I could see he was emotionally distressed,” he said.
“He seemed frightened, he didn’t seem right. My heart was getting faster and faster, and I was thinking this guy is moving into position to do something right now.
“I thought to myself, if that’s a bomb we were all dead, I really did. I thought he was going to get up, walk into the middle of the room and do what he did.
“I kept looking to the doors thinking the police were going to come in. I thought they’d be there. I thought they’d be on it. I really did. It was a horrible situation to be in, I felt hopeless.”
Abedi was sentenced to 55 years in jail earlier this year. The public inquiry is expected to conclude next spring.