Manchester Arena suicide bomber ‘smiling’ just before he detonated device

By Pat Hurst, PA
·3-min read

Watch: Manchester Arena suicide bomber ‘smiling’ just before he detonated device

Suicide bomber Salman Abedi was smiling as he walked to his death and murdered 22 innocent bystanders by detonating his home-made backpack bomb, a public inquiry heard.

Abedi, 22, was also on his mobile phone as he made his “final walk” after waiting for crowds to emerge at the end of an Ariana Grande gig at Manchester Arena.

Showsec security guard at the Arena on the night, Mohammed Agha, told the inquiry in Manchester: “He was on a phone, a mobile phone, he was smiling.”

Seconds later Abedi detonated his device, packed with 3,000 nuts and bolts, shredding everything in its path.

He had been hiding at the back of the City Room, the foyer to the Arena, before heading for the entrance doors of the venue as people emerged at the end of the gig at 10.30pm on May 22 2017.

Mr Agha told the inquiry he had seen Abedi, dressed in black and carrying a big, bulky rucksack, three times earlier that night but did not think him suspicious until minutes before the bombing when he agreed it “crossed his mind” Abedi might be a suicide bomber.

He denied he “fobbed off” a member of the public, Christopher Wild, who came to him to report his suspicions about Abedi around 10.15pm.

Around 15 minutes later Abedi left his position at the back of the City Room, a CCTV “blind spot”, to detonate his device.

Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry said: “How did the man seem to be at that stage as he made that final walk?”

Mr Agha replied: “He was on the phone, mobile phone, he was smiling.”

Earlier Mr Agha said he had passed on Mr Wild’s concerns about Abedi to a colleague, Kyle Lawler.

But this was at 10.25, some eight minutes after Mr Wild had first raised his concerns.

Mr Agha, aged 19 at the time of the bombing and being paid the minimum wage of £7.90 an hour, said that night his job was to stand by a fire exit.

He had no radio and said if he left his post, except for an emergency, he might lose his job.

Mr Agha said: “It’s a concern, it’s a suspicion but it’s not an emergency for me.

“I would have got in trouble, my job is in jeopardy.”

The 22 victims of the terror attack during the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena in May 2017 (GMP/PA)
The 22 victims of the terror attack during the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena in May 2017 (GMP/PA)

Families of some of the victims wiped away tears, others watched grim-faced and others shook their heads as the witness continued his evidence.

Mr Agha said he tried but failed to attract the attention of his boss, standing 30 metres away across the room, by raising his hand.

When a colleague, Mr Lawler, passed by him he spoke to the fellow Showsec steward, who had a radio, for him to report what Mr Wild had raised with him, to his superiors in the control room.

As he and Mr Lawler looked at Abedi, he described the bomber as, “kind of looking nervous, or kind of looking fidgety. He was playing with his hands”.

Mr Greaney asked the witness if he thought one possibility was that the suspicious man with the backpack might be a suicide bomber.

Mr Agha replied: “Not, not like, I did think about it, but it was not fully in my head.”

Mr Greaney continued: “Do you agree, it did cross your mind that this man might be a bomber?”

Mr Agha replied: “Yes.”

The public inquiry is looking at the background circumstances before and during the bombing and is expected to last into next spring.

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