18th May 2017
Arrival back in the UK
At 11:13 on 18th May 2017, SA was recorded on the CCTV at Manchester Airport, having landed shortly before this time. He arrived with only a small rucksack which he carried with him in the cabin of the aircraft. Seven minutes after being captured on the CCTV, SA bought a SIM card and a £15 mobile phone top‑up voucher for that SIM card from WH Smith in the airport. This SIM card was for a telephone number ending ‘3230’. At 11:24, the *3230 SIM card was placed in an Alcatel mobile handset, which SA had brought with him into the UK.
SA caught a bus from Manchester Airport to Wythenshawe Bus Station. He arrived at Wythenshawe Bus Station at 11:49. In the course of the journey, he booked a taxi to pick him up from Wythenshawe Bus Station. At 12:06, he took the taxi from that location. The taxi drove SA to Devell House. During the taxi journey, SA spoke to the driver about a mobile phone. SA arrived on Oxney Road outside Devell House at 12:29.
Operation Manteline officers took a witness statement from the taxi driver. The taxi driver’s recollection of their conversation about a mobile phone was that SA offered to sell him a handset. In my view, it is likely that the taxi driver was mistaken in his recollection. It is far more likely that SA asked to buy a handset that could not readily be traced to him.
I reach this conclusion for three reasons. First, SA only had one handset on him at this time. Had he sold it, he would have had no means of using the SIM card he had just bought. Second, a different taxi driver who transported SA later on 18th May 2017 recalled that SA asked to buy a handset from him. Third, later that day SA bought a handset from a shop. I will consider this further at paragraphs 23.88 and 23.89.
There are a number of features of SA’s behaviour before and following his arrival into Manchester Airport that indicate he was taking precautions against being detected. First, he arrived in the UK without a SIM card for his mobile phone. Second, he did not take a taxi directly from the airport, but instead took a bus journey first. Third, he attempted to acquire a mobile phone handset that would be harder for the authorities to trace back to him than one purchased in a shop.
Having arrived at Devell House, SA went to the Nissan Micra. As the CCTV footage shows, SA opened the passenger door and the boot. It is clear that he was checking that the contents of the vehicle were as he had left them.It may be that he also discovered a problem with the vehicle, given his enquiry later that day about buying one, discussed at paragraph 23.87.
At 12:33, SA made a telephone call. This call was in connection with the rental arrangements for Flat 39, Granby House, Granby Row, Manchester. Four days earlier, while he was still in Libya, SA had contacted the landlady of this property. He had agreed to meet her there at 14:00 on 18th May 2017. In his telephone call at 12:33 on 18th May 2017, SA enquired about a parking space at Granby House. It is likely that this was so that he could drive the Nissan Micra and its contents from Devell House to Granby House. In the event, this did not happen and the TATP stored in the Nissan Micra was moved to Granby House in a suitcase.
SA then called several car auction businesses, including Radcliffe Car Auctions. SA and HA had previously acquired the Hyundai Sonata vehicle from Radcliffe Car Auctions. It is likely that SA was attempting to obtain another vehicle on 18th May 2017. If so, he was not successful as he continued to rely upon taxis to transport him.
After the telephone calls to car auction businesses, SA caught a taxi to Broughton Lane in Cheetham Hill. It is during the course of this journey that SA asked the taxi driver if he had a mobile phone handset for sale.
Once at Cheetham Hill, he purchased a Samsung Galaxy mobile phone handset and withdrew money from a cash machine. By 14:17 on 18th May 2017, SA was at Granby House. There he met the landlady. Having been shown around by her, he entered on his own at 14:42.
At 17:56, he left Granby House and began a journey on foot, by bus and by tram to the Victoria Exchange Complex.
Hostile reconnaissance on 18th May 2017
Figure 45 shows all SA’s movements from 17:56 to 20:04, including the journey to the Victoria Exchange Complex. His actions at the complex, and afterwards, are set out in paragraphs 23.92 to 23.96.
Figure 45: SA’s movements between 17:56 and 20:04 on 18th May 2017
SA arrived at the Victoria Exchange Complex at around 18:18. He then walked around the complex. His journey took him down Station Approach and onto Hunts Bank. He re‑entered the Victoria Exchange Complex at 18:34 via the Trinity Way link tunnel.
At 18:35, SA entered the City Room. SA spent two minutes in the City Room observing the queues of people waiting to enter the Arena for an event. Viewed with the knowledge of what he was to do four days later, this footage is both disturbing and distressing. SA left the City Room by the raised walkway. He exited the Victoria Exchange Complex at 18:39.
In Part 1 in Volume 1 of my Report, I noted the challenge that detecting SA’s hostile reconnaissance presented. I explained that the solution to this challenge was, among other things, to push out the security perimeter and to ensure greater vigilance than existed at the time.
Acquiring items for the plot
From the Victoria Exchange Complex, SA went to Wilko to purchase batteries. From Wilko, he went to Sports Direct. In Sports Direct, SA bought a large, hard‑shell Kangol suitcase. At 19:30, he travelled by taxi to Screwfix.
SA arrived at Screwfix at 19:34. He remained in Screwfix for approximately ten minutes. While there, he spent £25.76. By 20:04, SA was back at Granby House. As he carried the Kangol suitcase up the stairs in the communal area, it is clear from the CCTV footage that the suitcase is empty.
19th May 2017
Retrieving the TATP from Devell House
At 08:11 on 19th May 2017, SA left Granby House carrying the Kangol suitcase. CCTV footage shows that he was able to carry it quite easily. SA waited for a taxi, which arrived at 08:35, to take him to Devell House. He arrived at Devell House 17 minutes after he left Granby House.
SA spent seven minutes at the Nissan Micra. Although not captured clearly on the CCTV, it is apparent that, during this period, SA removed the TATP that he and HA had manufactured. He placed it into the Kangol suitcase. Then, he returned to Granby House in a taxi, arriving at 09:26.
The CCTV at Granby House shows SA moving the Kangol suitcase up the stairs in the communal area.The difference in the effort required to move the suitcase at this point, compared with earlier that day, is obvious. It was now clearly much heavier. By this point, SA was prepared to begin the construction of the bomb.
Purchases on 19th May 2017
At 10:32 on 19th May 2017, SA left Granby House. He made his way on foot to Screwfix.
In Screwfix, SA purchased a number of items. Among them was a pack of 100 steel hex nuts.These were to form part of the shrapnel in the bomb.
Later that day, at 13:20, SA went to Manchester Merchant, formerly known as Trojan Tools. There, he bought a large money tin which also formed part of the bomb. Having completed that purchase, SA’s route back to Granby House took him past the steps to the Arena on Hunts Bank. He took a taxi from Station Approach back to Granby House.
At 19:38 that same day, having gone out again, SA purchased a 65‑litre Karrimor Bobcat rucksack from Sports Direct. This was the rucksack he would use to transport the bomb to the Arena.
Later that evening, at 21:53, SA placed an internet order with Screwfix. The order was for 5,000 metal nuts. It was made in a false name using an address on a street on which the Abedi family used to live. The order was for collection.
20th May 2017
Between 06:31 and 07:24 on 20th May 2017, SA was away from Granby House. Operation Manteline has not been able to establish what he was doing during this period.
Later that morning, at 08:16, SA left Granby House for a second time. This second outing was to B&M, B&Q and Screwfix. While in B&Q, SA purchased 150 galvanised metal nuts and 20 zinc‑plated metal dowels. In Screwfix, SA made two purchases, one for a five‑litre paint can, the other for 1,600 metal nuts.
SA went from Screwfix back to Granby House, arriving there at 12:00. He remained in Granby House for the next seven hours. At 19:12, SA left Granby House to empty the paint in the tin down a drain. Later that evening, he left again to buy rubber gloves from a Tesco Express, returning to Granby House at 20:25.
21st May 2017
SA left Granby House at 09:17 on 21st May 2017. He did so in order to go to Screwfix once again. In Screwfix, he enquired about his internet order. He also purchased some tin snips and a 2.5‑litre tin of paint. Later that morning, SA emptied the paint can, once again down a drain.
SA returned to Screwfix later that day. At 14:56, he attended to collect his internet order. Although he had originally ordered 5,000 metal nuts, he had called the shop at 12:47 and reduced his order to 2,000.
Hostile reconnaissance on 21st May 2017
Later that day, SA carried out hostile reconnaissance at the Victoria Exchange Complex.
At 18:26, he left Granby House. He walked to Portland Street. He took a bus to Piccadilly Gardens. At Piccadilly Gardens, SA took a tram to the Victoria Exchange Complex. He arrived at the Victoria Exchange Complex at 18:53.
Figure 46 shows all SA’s movements from 18:26 to 19:44, including this journey. His actions at the Victoria Exchange Complex, and afterwards, are set out in paragraphs 23.113 to 23.115.
Figure 46: SA’s movements between 18:26 and 19:44 on 21st May 2017
SA made his way directly to the City Room. A detailed map of the City Room can be found at Appendix 16. He entered the City Room via the raised walkway at 18:56. He sat on a low wall at the foot of the JD Williams staircase. He walked up onto the mezzanine via the JD Williams staircase, and remained there for several seconds. From this position, he could see the whole City Room. He could also see the mezzanine area.This was the area in which he was to hide the following day.
From the mezzanine, SA went back down the JD Williams staircase to the main floor of the City Room and walked to the Fifty Pence staircase. He descended to the Fifty Pence Piece, where he remained for approximately five minutes. He re‑entered the City Room via the Fifty Pence staircase at 19:10. He walked straight across the City Room and departed via the raised walkway. The final sighting of SA on the CCTV at the Victoria Exchange Complex that day was at 19:12 on the tram platform.
By 19:36, SA was back in the vicinity of Granby House.
22nd May 2017
Disposal of items
At 12:30 on 22nd May 2017, SA left Granby House with the Kangol suitcase and a small rucksack. Within the Kangol suitcase was a black bin bag. SA disposed of this bag in a bin in the area of Stevenson Square. The contents of this bag have not been established. It is clear that SA was looking to dispose of some of the items he had used in the manufacture of the bomb away from Granby House.
At 17:30, SA was captured on the CCTV at Granby House disposing of two full black bin bags in the communal rubbish bins in the basement.Operation Manteline investigators recovered materials that had been used in the construction of the bomb from the basement at Granby House.
At 17:55, SA travelled to the Muslim Youth Foundation.
Figure 47: SA’s movements between 17:55 and 18:50 on 22nd May 2017
At the Muslim Youth Foundation, SA met Rabie Zreba, who was known within the Libyan community as someone who could arrange money transfers. The meeting had been arranged earlier in the day. The purpose of the meeting was to arrange the transfer of money to Libya. In the course of the meeting, SA arranged for the transfer of £470 to Libya. The transfer was to a person called Muadh al‑Tabbal. When arranging the transfer, SA described this person as being a relative.
SA travelled from the Muslim Youth Foundation to the Victoria Exchange Complex. He arrived by tram at 18:31. He made his way directly to the City Room which he entered by the raised walkway. As soon as he reached the City Room, he turned around. He left the Victoria Exchange Complex using the War Memorial entrance at 18:35.
He arrived back at Granby House at 18:50.
Further disposal of items
At 19:42, SA left Granby House with a small rucksack and the Kangol suitcase. He walked away from Granby House. By 19:47, SA had disposed of the Kangol suitcase. This occurred either on Ebden Street or Minshull Street South. Despite extensive searches, the police were unable to recover the Kangol suitcase.
After SA disposed of the Kangol suitcase, he made his way to the Macdonald Hotel just off London Road. Near that location, SA disposed of the small rucksack, which contained his Libyan and British passports. He also disposed of the Samsung Galaxy mobile phone handset purchased on 18th May 2017. All of these items were recovered by the police after the Attack. The Samsung Galaxy mobile phone did not have the SIM card in it and had probably been the subject of a factory reset.
SA returned to Granby House for the final time, arriving at 20:00 by taxi. During the course of this journey, SA asked the taxi driver: “Are you a Muslim, brother?” The taxi driver replied that he was.
The taxi that had driven SA from the Victoria Exchange Complex waited for him while he went into Granby House. At 20:06, SA left Granby House for the final time. He was wearing the Karrimor rucksack containing the bomb. His ultimate destination was the City Room.
SA was driven from Granby House to Nicholas Street. He withdrew money from a cash machine. He returned to the taxi, which drove him to Shudehill tram stop.
Throughout his journey, SA wore the Karrimor rucksack. The taxi driver was struck by how heavy it appeared to be.During the journey from the cash machine to Shudehill tram stop, the taxi driver commented on how heavy the rucksack appeared to be. SA replied: “I’m weak, aren’t I, brother?” Shortly before the end of the journey, SA gave the taxi driver a gift of the Qur’an. SA asked the taxi driver to pray for him. SA gave his name as “Suleman”. He told the taxi driver that he was from Libya. When asked if he was going far, SA told the taxi driver he was only travelling locally.
By 20:15, SA was standing on the tram platform at Shudehill. At 20:23, SA made a telephone call lasting 4 minutes and 12 seconds. The telephone call was to a person in Libya.Mr Justice Jeremy Baker found that this call was to HA.
As that telephone call was ending, SA boarded a tram bound for the Victoria Exchange Complex.
In Part 1 in Volume 1 of my Report, I detailed SA’s movements within the Victoria Exchange Complex and the missed opportunities to detect, deter or disrupt him, or to diminish the impact of the explosion.
At 22:31, SA detonated his device within the City Room.