Area where Manchester Arena attacker hid ‘never patrolled by us’, inquiry hears

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A security boss said he did not expect his staff to check an area of the Manchester Arena where bomber Salman Abedi hid for nearly an hour before he carried out his deadly attack.

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.

Showsec’s then head of security at the Arena 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”.

On Tuesday, Tom Bailey, who had worked at the Arena since 2005, 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.

“We always knew 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.”

He described the working relationship with SMG and Showsec as “very very close”.

Manchester Arena incident
Salman Abedi at Victoria Station making his way to the Manchester Arena (GMP/PA)

“It was such a relationship that we knew how each other operated.”

Last week, SMG’s duty manager for the Ariana Grande concert, Miriam Stone, told the hearing it “never occurred to me until the evidence” the pre-egress check sheets would be read in any way other than an instruction to check the whole of the City Room.

The upper floor was previously occupied by both a McDonald’s restaurant and a call centre for retail firm JD Williams but the McDonald’s closed in December 2016.

Mr Bailey told the inquiry: “When McDonald’s was there people were always around up there.

“I think if I look back with hindsight now when McDonald’s shut, possibly there should have been a rethink of that area.”

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.”

Inquiry chairman Sir John Saunders asked him: “With the staff you had on May 22 did you have a reasonable prospect of stopping a bomber who came into the City Room and never came near the doors?”

“No,” said Mr Bailey.

The public inquiry into the attack which killed 22 people and injured hundreds others is expected to last until next spring.

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