Manchester Arena suicide bomber hid for an HOUR in CCTV blind spot

Manchester Arena suicide bomber Salman Abedi hid for an HOUR in CCTV blind spot before murdering 22 people and injuring hundreds, inquiry hears

  • Abedi, 22, made three ‘hostile reconnaissance’ trips ahead of bombing in 2017
  • He hid for almost an hour in mezzanine level of Manchester Arena hours before
  • Video also shows Abedi making trips to Arena during earlier Take That concert 

Manchester Arena suicide bomber Salman Abedi spent almost an hour hiding in a CCTV blind spot before he detonated a bomb which killed 22 people and injured hundreds more, a public inquiry has heard. 

Abedi, 22, made three ‘hostile reconnaissance’ trips in the days leading up to the attack in May 2017, with footage at one point showing him walking up and down in front of the entrance doors, yards from security personnel.

On the night of the attack, Abedi was filmed briefly entering the City Room foyer at 6.34pm before striking up a brief conversation with two security stewards en route to taking a taxi from Victoria railway station at 6.36pm.

He returned on his fateful final journey at 8.30pm, carrying a large rucksack. 

Footage at one point showed Abedi walking up and down in front of the entrance doors, yards from security personnel

Abedi later headed to the raised mezzanine level of the City Room – out of sight of CCTV cameras – where he waited for nearly an hour before he descended the staircase and detonated the bomb at 10.31pm.

Michael Edwards, who worked as a control room operator for SMG, was asked by Nick de la Poer, for the inquiry, if he was aware of CCTV blind spots.

He said: ‘I was yes. Everybody knew about the blind spots that we had.

‘I’d say “that person’s gone off camera” in which case we would have to physically go up there. I have known it on quite a few occasions.’

Abedi, pictured with his head down, passing a woman in a red jacket, briefly walked into the venue’s City Room, before leaving moments later, during one reconnaissance trip, the inquiry heard today

The Manchester Arena bombings inquiry has been shown footage of Salman Abedi carrying out three ‘hostile reconnaissance’ trips in the days before the attack in May 2017

No police officers were visible in the CCTV footage that showed Abedi walking round the arena as he plotted his attack – which killed 22 people, including children

There was no camera focused on the mezzanine level where Abedi spent almost an hour before the attack, the inquiry was told.

The camera could be aimed at the area but if someone was standing there, you could only see their top half, he said.

Reports suggested that Abedi had been sitting, the inquiry was told.

John Cooper QC, for 11 of the victims’ families, asked how long had it been known that this was a blind spot.

An inquiry heard how Adedi was walking ‘with difficulty,’ as he wore the rucksack inside Manchester Arena’s public toilets

One of Abedi’s trips came during a Take That concert, as the killer scoped out security at the venue, just days before launching the horrific attack – security experts believe he used this initial reconnaissance to identify entrance and exit routes from the Arena, check CCTV locations and may have noticed a CCTV blind spot on the raised level of the foyer

‘With the CCTV system as it was, ever since I’ve started working for SMG. It had always been a blind spot,’ Mr Edwards said.

‘Did SMG or any officials ever come and do an audit of CCTV and blind spots?’ Mr Cooper asked.

‘I don’t recall any audits,’ Mr Edwards said.

The inquiry told that Martin McGuffie, who had been sitting on a wall near the mezzanine level, had ‘encountered someone with a rucksack on his back who appeared to have been hiding’. This appeared to be Salman Abedi, it was heard.

The inquiry then went into ‘restricted’ session to discuss the security of the arena.

Abedi (pictured on the night of the attack) briefly watched concertgoers queue about 35 minutes before the individual entered the foyer four nights earlier

Earlier, the hearing was told of two further trips made by Abedi to the arena. 

His first hostile reconnaissance was before a Take That concert on May 18, the day he landed in the UK from Libya where his parents lived.   

Salman Abedi on the night he carried out the attack, which killed 22 people and injured hundreds of others

He was captured on film arriving at Victoria tram stop at 6.18pm before he walked around the perimeter of the railway station and the adjoining Arena complex.

Abedi entered the City Room at 6.35pm and walked past a security supervisor before he stood with his hands behind his back and observed people queuing to get inside the venue. 

Shortly afterwards he returned to the tram stop and departed, Manchester Magistrates’ Court was told.

Security experts believe he used this initial reconnaissance to identify entrance and exit routes from the Arena, check CCTV locations and may have noticed a CCTV blind spot on the raised level of the foyer.

Inquiry chairman Sir John Saunders asked Detective Chief Inspector Sam Pickering, who dealt with the sequence of events, whether in hindsight it was clear that Abedi was carrying out reconnaissance when observing the queues.

The Greater Manchester Police officer replied: ‘It’s a busy place with lots of people wandering around… it might be hard to spot.’

Abedi returned to the City Room at 6.56pm on May 21 before a show by physicist Professor Brian Cox.

Wearing dark clothing, he casually jumped on a wall and sat there for six minutes holding his phone to his ear and occasionally looking around before he returned to the tram platform at 7.12pm.

Ex-police officer Jonathan Lavery said a ‘suspicious’ man was seen filming in the foyer of the music venue ahead of a Take That concert on May 18. Suicide bomber Salman Abedi (pictured) struck four days later, at an Ariana Grande concert, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds of others

Abedi died in the blast after he detonated a rucksack bomb in the foyer on May 22.  

His younger brother Hashem Abedi, now 23, was convicted of 22 counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of conspiracy to cause an explosion following a trial in March.

He was jailed for a minimum of 55 years in August.

The inquiry, which is investigating the circumstances around the attack and expected to finish next spring, continues.    

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