During the evening of 22nd May 2017, the Arena was the venue for a concert by Ariana Grande, an American singer with a large fan base. The concert was attended by over 14,000 people, many of whom were teenagers and children. The doors opened at 18:00 and Ariana Grande was scheduled to begin performing at 21:00.Shortly before 22.30, the concert began to draw to a close and people started to leave. Many did so through an area called the City Room which was one of the four customer access points into the Arena. There were people waiting close to the exit from the Arena concourse for friends and family who had attended the concert. This included many parents waiting to collect children.
SA had carried out hostile reconnaissanceof the Arena shortly after the doors opened. He then returned to the Victoria Exchange Complex once the concert was underway. He spent 20 minutes in a CCTV blind spot (the Blind Spot) on the mezzanine. The Blind Spot was between the entrance to JD Williams and the former location of McDonald’s. Figure 1 is an annotated plan drawing of the City Room edged in green, with the mezzanine marked in yellow. The entrance to JD Williams and the former location of McDonald’s are also indicated.
Figure 1: Annotated plan drawing of the City Room
As well as being hidden from the CCTV cameras, SA was out of view of Showsec staff who were on duty in the City Room. He left this hiding place and the City Room, but did not leave the Victoria Exchange Complex. After a short time, he returned to the City Room and hid in the Blind Spot again, this time for almost an hour.After his return, members of the public saw SA in the City Room and thought he looked suspicious. One raised his concerns with a member of the Showsec security staff, but no effective action was taken in response. As people began to come out of the Arena into the City Room, SA descended from the mezzanine and detonated the bomb he was carrying. The details of these events are set out in the chronology in Appendix 2.