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Volume 1: Security for the Arena
Volume 1: Security for the Arena (large format)

22nd May 2017 (20:51 to 21:10)

SA’s first period in the City Room

This period represents SA’s first visit to the City Room wearing his backpack. The fact that SA was permitted to wait for any period of time in the City Room immediately prior to and during the concert was the product of the positioning of the perimeter. Had the perimeter been moved away from the Arena, SA would not have been able to gain access to the City Room. Whatever reason SA gave for going into the City Room, his backpack would have been searched.

Showsec employee Mohammed Agha was present in the City Room at 20:51 when SA entered it for the first time on 22nd May 2017. He had been deployed to the City Room to stand in an area known as ‘the Grey Doors’ for the duration of the event. As SA approached the McDonald’s side staircase of the mezzanine, Mohammed Agha noticed SA’s trainers because he liked them, but thought nothing more about him.19 SA was in Mohammed Agha’s view for fewer than 10 seconds. During that period there was nothing sufficiently suspicious about SA’s appearance or the circumstances to justify criticism of the fact that Mohammed Agha did not take any further action at that time.

SA remained in the City Room, out of sight of Mohammed Agha, on the mezzanine. The area where SA positioned himself was out of sight of the CCTV cameras. He had no doubt identified this area during his hostile reconnaissance. SA chose an obvious hiding place and remained in it for a period of nearly 20 minutes. Had the area been covered by CCTV so that there was no Blind Spot, it is likely this behaviour by SA would have been identified as suspicious by anyone monitoring the CCTV. Once some scrutiny was on him, it is likely that SA’s backpack, hat and bulky clothing would have heightened the suspicion. I shall address the issue of CCTV monitoring in greater detail in Part 6.

This period was not a time that was obviously significant in terms of the risk of a terrorist attack. The concert was some way from finishing and very few people were in the City Room. Consequently, it is likely that there would have been a period of time before SA was identified as suspicious and a decision taken that he should be spoken to. I am not able to say, therefore, with any certainty that he would have been approached and, by reason of this, made aware that he had been identified during this period.

However, had the CCTV system covered the Blind Spot and been properly monitored, there would have been heightened sensitivity to SA’s presence. His return to the City Room at 21:30 would then have been seen as significant by those responsible for monitoring the CCTV. I shall address CCTV and the Blind Spot in greater detail in Part 6.