BTP and the City Room in the 30 minutes before the end of the concert
The BTP officers who attended the Victoria Exchange Complex on the evening of 22nd May 2017 were there because of the concert. They were instructed by the duty sergeant that at least one of them should position themselves in the City Room from approximately 22:00 in readiness for the end of the event at 22:30.
Five officers were instructed to attend. One of those officers, the most experienced, PC Stephen Corke, did not attend the Victoria Exchange Complex at all until after the detonation. PC Bullough, together with PCSO Mark Renshaw left the City Room at 21:59. Neither of them returned until after the explosion.
There were two other PCSOs deployed to the Victoria Exchange Complex that evening: PCSO Jon Morrey and PCSO Lewis Brown. PCSO Brown was PCSO Morrey’s mentee and had to remain with him. Both had been in the City Room during the course of their deployment. Neither was in the City Room at any point during the period 22:00 to 22:31.
As a result, there were no BTP officers in the City Room during the period 22:00 to 22:31. There should have been at least one. Responsibility for this failing lies with PCs Bullough and Corke and PCSOs Renshaw and Morrey. They share this responsibility with BTP as an organisation. I will address this is in greater detail in Part 7.
The mere presence of a BTP officer in the City Room may have deterred SA from mounting any attack, although I consider this unlikely. A BTP officer in the City Room may have identified SA as requiring investigation. PC Corke routinely positioned himself on the mezzanine.In any event, all BTP officers should have been vigilant. The concert was shortly to end. SA’s age meant that he did not fit the demographic of a parent waiting for a child. While SA may have been a sibling or friend of an attendee, his age was a further piece of relevant information when considering whether or not his presence at that stage of the evening was suspicious. This, added to his clothing, backpack and where he had chosen to position himself on the mezzanine, would have resulted in him being identified by a vigilant BTP officer, had such a person been present from 22:00.
I will consider what might have occurred had SA been identified by an adequately vigilant BTP officer in the City Room at the conclusion of Part 1.
Showsec’s pre-egress check
A further missed opportunity during the period 22:00 to 22:30 arose from the absence of an adequate security patrol by Showsec at any stage during this time. Showsec operated a system of “pre-egress” checks. Such a check was carried out by Showsec supervisor, Jordan Beak. An adequate security patrol of the whole City Room would have included a counter-terrorism element on the mezzanine. The pre-egress check was not an adequate security patrol. It should have been.
Jordan Beak’s pre-egress check took place between 22:09 and 22:18. It included walking through the City Room.Jordan Beak’s understanding was that this check included a counter-terrorism element, but the focus was on ensuring the egress routes were clear. The CCTV footage showed and Jordan Beak accepted, that he looked towards the staircases up to the mezzanine area only very briefly at 22:09 and 22:17. He did not consider them a very important part of the check because it was not an egress route.
Jordan Beak did not go up on to the mezzanine area and so he did not see SA. This was a significant missed opportunity. Had Jordan Beak gone up onto the mezzanine, he would have seen SA. For the reasons I have identified, the circumstances would have resulted in SA being identified by an adequate pre-egress check as being suspicious. This, in turn, would have prompted further action which I will consider in detail at the conclusion of Part 1.
I accept that Jordan Beak was simply following the training he had been given in relation to the pre-egress check. Principal responsibility for this missed opportunity lies with Showsec. However, SMG does bear some responsibility as well.
I will address the issue of patrols in more detail in Part 6.
Christopher Wild’s report to Mohammed Agha
At 22:15, an event occurred which exemplifies the need for a BTP officer to have been in the City Room from 22:00. Christopher Wild was present in the City Room with his partner Julie Whitley. They were waiting to pick up Julie Whitley’s daughter and her friend. At 22:12 they saw SA seated on the mezzanine. They could not understand why he was there and why he appeared to be hiding.Christopher Wild asked SA what he had in his bag and he did not reply in any meaningful way. Christopher Wild was concerned that the bag might contain a bomb. Figure 3 shows an area of the mezzanine between the JD Williams’ side and McDonald’s side in which SA was hiding when seen by Christopher Wild.
Figure 3: Location of SA when seen by Christopher Wild (marked with an X)
Christopher Wild was not the only member of the public who thought that SA appeared to be out of place at that time.He was, however, the only person who acted. The fact that SA was noticed by members of the public supports the conclusion that a vigilant BTP officer or Jordan Beak would have identified SA as suspicious, had they seen him.
Christopher Wild reported his concerns to Mohammed Agha at 22:15.Mohammed Agha’s response was that he already knew about him. Christopher Wild felt he had been “fobbed off”. Another member of the public, Thomas McCallum, who overheard the conversation, thought Mohammed Agha was “really quite dismissive.”
Mohammed Agha stated that when Christopher Wild told him of his concern, it took him some time to realise that he was talking about the same person that he had seen go up to the mezzanine area on two occasions.He stated he did tell Christopher Wild not to worry as he did not want him to be concerned and worry other people. Mohammed Agha denied fobbing Christopher Wild off. Whether it was Mohammed Agha’s intention or not, the effect was to fob Christopher Wild off.
Mohammed Agha knew that he should report what he had been told to a Showsec supervisor or a member of Showsec staff who had a radio.He saw a senior supervisor, David Middleton, over by the doors to the Arena in the City Room less than 30 metres away and he stated he tried to call him over. The CCTV reveals some very modest movements by Mohammed Agha which do, to some extent, support his account. For that reason, I am prepared to accept that Mohammed Agha did make some effort to contact David Middleton. The effort he did make was, however, inadequate.
Mohammed Agha should have done more immediately following his conversation with Christopher Wild. This was a missed opportunity. Mohammed Agha did not respond appropriately because he did not take Christopher Wild’s concerns as seriously as he should have. Responsibility for this rests on both Mohammed Agha and Showsec. I will address the reasons for this further in Part 6.
At this point in the events, the concert was not due to finish for another 15 minutes. This was a sufficient period of time both for an investigation of Christopher Wild’s concerns and for decisive action to be taken by those in charge of the event. I will deal with what could have been done in more detail at the conclusion of Part 1.
Mohammed Agha’s report to Kyle Lawler
A further opportunity for Mohammed Agha to respond to Christopher Wild’s concern presented itself at 22:22. Kyle Lawler, another Showsec employee, walked across the City Room and was called over by Mohammed Agha. Unlike Mohammed Agha, Kyle Lawler had a radio. Mohammed Agha told him what Christopher Wild had said and they both said that they then went to look at SA. Kyle Lawler stated that at first he was not suspicious about SA but he did think there was something wrong.He said that SA appeared to have a slightly nervous reaction to being looked at and seemed fidgety. Kyle Lawler felt conflicted about what to do as he had heard nothing of any potential attack. He stated he was fearful of being branded a racist and would be in trouble if he got it wrong.
I accept that Kyle Lawler did try and get through on the radio, but someone else was talking and he was unsuccessful. He said he tried to get through a number of times before returning to the raised walkway.
There was evidence that the radio traffic could be busy about the time that the concert was coming to an end, but the weight of the evidence was that a member of the Showsec staff would not have to wait more than a couple of minutes before getting through.While Kyle Lawler did make some effort to get through, I do not consider that his efforts were adequate. If he believed he could not get through on the radio, he could have reported what he had been told to senior supervisor David Middleton. Instead, within minutes of having first spoken to Mohammed Agha, Kyle Lawler had left the City Room and made no further efforts to communicate what he had been told to anyone else.
In Figure 4, Kyle Lawler can be seen on the raised walkway. The image is taken approximately 30 seconds after he had finished speaking to Mohammed Agha. His body language as he walked away from the City Room indicates that he was by that stage unconcerned.
Figure 4: Kyle Lawler (in the yellow box) at 22:25:46 on the raised walkway
This was another missed opportunity. The inadequacy of Kyle Lawler’s response was a product of his failure to take Christopher Wild’s concern and his own observations sufficiently seriously, as was the case for Mohammed Agha. Responsibility for this rests on both Kyle Lawler and Showsec for reasons I will explain. I accept that having spoken to Kyle Lawler, Mohammed Agha was entitled to rely upon him as a radio holder to communicate Christopher Wild’s concerns from that point.
As indicated above, at the conclusion of Part 1, I will consider what the effect of an adequate and timely report by Kyle Lawler would have been.
The concern raised by Christopher Wild is relevant to BTP as well as Showsec. Had there been a BTP officer in the City Room after 22:00, Christopher Wild could have reported his concern to that officer instead of to Mohammed Agha. Christopher Wild said that he would have taken this option if it had been available. If this had occurred, a competent BTP officer would have taken action that could have saved lives.
A BTP officer would also have been available for Mohammed Agha to report the concern to. This is less likely to have happened, given that Mohammed Agha did not take Christopher Wild’s concern sufficiently seriously.