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The Manchester Arena Inquiry has now concluded. The closure notice from the Inquiry Chairman is available here.

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

22nd May 2017 (21:33 to 22:00)

SA’s second period in the City Room

What I have said about the security perimeter in the paragraphs above applies equally to SA’s return to the City Room at 21:33.

SA’s return presented an opportunity for him to be identified as suspicious by Mohammed Agha. The fact that SA had been there previously was a factor which should have caused Mohammed Agha to pay him greater attention. SA followed the same path in the City Room as earlier in the evening. He again concealed himself on the mezzanine in the Blind Spot. Had Mohammed Agha been more alert to the risk of a terrorist attack, he had a sufficient opportunity to form the view that SA was suspicious and required closer attention. This conclusion, had Mohammed Agha been adequately trained, would have caused him to draw SA to his supervisor’s attention at this stage. This, in turn, would have brought into sharp focus that SA had chosen to position himself out of sight of the cameras.

This was a missed opportunity. Had this opportunity not been missed, it is likely to have led to SA being spoken to before 21:45. Had SA been spoken to at this stage he may have been deterred. He may have detonated his device. He may have left the City Room for a period, before attempting to return later. None of these possibilities is likely to have resulted in devastation of the magnitude caused by SA at 22:31.

Principal responsibility for this missed opportunity lies with Showsec, who failed adequately to train Mohammed Agha. Mohammed Agha also bears personal responsibility for this missed opportunity. I will address the issue of Showsec’s training in greater detail in Part 6.

At the same time, SMG’s inadequate CCTV system was the cause of a different but connected missed opportunity. Had the Blind Spot been eliminated either by increased CCTV or by patrols, SA’s activity would have been identified. This would have led to a similar course of events as if Mohammed Agha had drawn attention to SA. This was an ongoing missed opportunity for the whole of the period 21:33 to 22:00.

By 22:00, SA’s presence on the mezzanine had been noticed by members of the public. One of those members of the public was Julie Merchant who was in the City Room that night as part of an anti-bootlegging operation.20 Julie Merchant asserted that she had drawn SA to the attention of BTP Police Constable (PC) Jessica Bullough, although not because she thought SA was suspicious. PC Bullough stated that she had no recollection of any conversation of the type reported by Julie Merchant.21 The City Room CCTV recorded Julie Merchant and PC Bullough at 21:59 near the doors which provided direct access to the station concourse.22 The two were in close proximity for only a couple of seconds.

Julie Merchant stated that she did not regard SA as being suspicious.23 Her recollection about what she said was, for understandable reasons, not clear, but she was not seeking to raise a security concern.24 It is entirely understandable that PC Bullough did not take any action at this time. I do not regard this as a missed opportunity.