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

Hostile reconnaissance response

Key findings

  • There was evidence that SMG and Showsec had experience of identifying and responding to potential hostile reconnaissance appropriately.
  • The follow-up to identified potential hostile reconnaissance was not effective on every occasion, in particular in response to an occasion of potential hostile reconnaissance by a person unconnected to SA three days prior to the Attack.
  • There was an insufficiently robust system for ensuring that information about suspicious behaviour was always passed on and acted upon.
  • Greater awareness of the potential hostile reconnaissance, by the person unconnected to SA, three days prior to the Attack may have caused Mohammed Agha or Kyle Lawler to respond differently to Christopher Wild’s concerns. It would have increased the possibility that SA would have been noticed on 22nd May 2017.

Hostile reconnaissance: sharing of information

The adequacy of the SMG and Showsec training is dealt with earlier in Part 6. I focus here on the system which was in place for following up on potential hostile reconnaissance when it was identified.

SMG and Showsec staff did have experience of identifying and responding to potential hostile reconnaissance effectively. Thomas Bailey told me about an incident when some individuals were thought to be acting suspiciously at a Pet Shop Boys concert in February 2017. This led to a prompt and substantial response. Another incident at a Jehovah’s Witness conference in 2015 led to a BTP superintendent being deployed to the Sierra Control Room for several subsequent events.542

Brandon Couper-Philips, a Showsec steward, noticed an incident of suspected hostile reconnaissance on 21st May 2017,543 demonstrating that Showsec staff were on the lookout for such issues on that evening too. It was not clear to me on the evidence I heard in relation to this incident, however, to what extent it was considered or investigated.

The follow-up to reports of hostile reconnaissance was not effective on every occasion. Jonathan Lavery, a former police officer and member of Showsec staff, reported an Asian male “acting very suspiciously wearing all black with a large black bag” to the Sierra Control Room on the evening of 18th May 2017.544 This description was very similar to SA’s appearance on 22nd May 2017, although the individual Jonathan Lavery saw was not SA, nor does he have any known links to either SA or HA.545 Jonathan Lavery followed the individual until he got onto a train, and informed a BTP officer of his concerns.546 He then completed a written report of the incident which was collected at the end of the evening.547

Jonathan Lavery’s expectation was that this report would have been brought up in the pre-event briefing on subsequent nights, but he could not recall whether this had in fact happened. He was not aware of any system in place to ensure that it did.548

Miriam Stone thought that she had mentioned Jonathan Lavery’s report in her briefings to supervisors on the following evenings, in order to raise their awareness and encourage security staff to “keep an eye out”.549 I found Miriam Stone to be a generally reliable witness and accept that this was her genuine recollection, but there was nothing about Jonathan Lavery’s report documented on either the supervisors’550 or stewards’551 briefing sheet on 22nd May 2017. Showsec staff did not recall being informed of it.552 Either the information was not passed down effectively to those providing security on that night or it did not make a sufficient impression on them.

There was an insufficiently robust system for ensuring that information about suspicious behaviour was always passed on and acted upon.

The Security Experts were critical of the lack of a system to ensure such key information was adequately disseminated, both within SMG and Showsec553 and between them and the police.554 They also were of the view that there was not enough practical direction given to staff about how to respond to or report suspicious behaviour, and encouragement to act upon it.555 Colonel Latham described the issue as follows:

“[Y]ou can encourage it by, whenever anybody reports anything, no matter how stupid, foolish and irritating it is that they’ve done that, giving them positive public praise and reinforcement, “This guy’s always reporting stuff, he’s my best reporter”, that sort of attitude…if you encourage your junior staff to really do that, their job is less boring and you can be a bit more of a team and it’s better customer service. But in this case, we have seen when these two individuals [Agha and Lawler] were pressed to test, the net result was that the control room didn’t find out.”556

Colonel Latham commented that passing on reports of suspicious behaviour, such as that of Jonathan Lavery, was “a good way of keeping your briefings fresh” and encouraging others to report concerns. He agreed with the suggestion that, had security staff on 22nd May 2017 been aware they should look out for someone dressed in black and carrying a backpack, it might have helped them spot someone who fitted that description.557

It may be that greater awareness of Jonathan Lavery’s report of suspicious behaviour a few nights earlier would have caused Mohammed Agha or Kyle Lawler to respond differently to Christopher Wild’s concerns. Greater awareness would also have caused Showsec staff more generally to have been more vigilant in looking out for someone of a similar appearance to SA. This would have increased the possibility that he would have been noticed.