It is difficult to reach a safe conclusion on what the consequences of the missed opportunities were, if any. No-one knows what SA would have done had he been confronted before 22:31. We know that only one of the twenty-two killed by SA entered the City Room before 22:14. Eleven of those who were killed came through the Arena concourse doors into the City Room after 22:30. I will deal with the detail of these timings in Volume 2.
If a BTP officer had been present in the City Room from 22:00 onwards, Christopher Wild would, he said, have approached that person instead of Mohammed Agha.It is likely that a BTP officer would then have spoken to SA. PC Bullough confirmed that had a member of the public raised a concern about a suspicious person with a backpack she would “definitely” have approached that person. I have considered whether this statement was a product of guilt born of hindsight. Having heard her give evidence, I have no reason to doubt that her evidence about this was correct. An approach by a police officer may have caused SA to leave the City Room, or he may have detonated his device. In either case, it is likely that fewer people would have been killed.
Had Mohammed Agha or Kyle Lawler reported the presence of a suspicious individual in the City Room, Miriam Stone, SMG Event Manager that night, stated that she could, within minutes, have prevented the audience exiting into the City Room. This would have been done by closing the exit doors and diverting the audience through other exits.James Allen, SMG’s Arena Manager, agreed and thought it would take in the “single figures” of minutes to achieve this.
This step would not have taken place immediately. The procedure which would have been followed, is that the Sierra Control Room would have asked for the CCTV camera to be turned to focus on SA’s position. Had it become clear he could not be seen, this may have caused further concern and led to the City Room doors being closed for egress at that stage. Alternatively, the Sierra Control Room may have asked a Showsec supervisor, most likely to have been David Middleton, to go and observe SA. David Middleton’s evidence was that he would have considered someone loitering in the City Room with a big backpack suspicious and reported this to the control room,which would also have led to the City Room doors being closed for egress. Had the City Room doors been closed for egress, it is highly likely that the number of casualties would have been fewer.
In any event, none of these processes would have taken long, probably fewer than five minutes and very likely less than 10 minutes given the evidence of James Allen and Miriam Stone. If Mohammed Agha had reported Christopher Wild’s concern immediately to David Middleton at 22:15, these steps would have been taken before SA moved off the mezzanine area. If Kyle Lawler had reported SA’s presence over the radio immediately at 22:23, it is also likely that these steps would have been taken before SA moved towards the doors. Events would then have developed very differently, although it is impossible to be certain what the final outcome would have been.
I am satisfied that there were a number of missed opportunities to alter the course of what happened that night. More should have been done. The most striking missed opportunity, and the one that is likely to have made a significant difference, is the attempt by Christopher Wild to bring his concerns about SA, whom he had already challenged, to the attention of Mohammed Agha. Christopher Wild’s behaviour was very responsible. He stated that he formed the view that SA might “let a bomb off”.That was sadly all too prescient and makes all the more distressing the fact that no effective steps were taken as a result of the efforts made by Christopher Wild.