Manchester bombing: Security boss told police of 'man with rucksack'

Security boss alerted police to Asian man with ‘bulging rucksack’ who was filming Take That fans in Manchester Arena foyer four nights before terror blast that killed 22 at Ariana Grande show, inquiry hears

  • Ex-police officer Jonathan Lavery said he saw a ‘suspicious’ man four days earlier
  • He said ‘Asian man’ with ‘bulging rucksack’ was filming before Take That concert
  • Man – who was not bomber Salman Abedi – had no links to the attack or terrorism
  • Abedi, 22, killed 22 people when he detonated bomb at Ariana Grande concert 

A security boss alerted detectives investigating the Manchester Arena bombing to a ‘suspicions’ Asian man with a ‘bulging rucksack’ seen in same venue four nights before the fatal terror attack, an inquiry heard

Ex-police officer Jonathan Lavery said the man was seen filming in the foyer of the music venue ahead of a Take That concert on May 18.

Suicide bomber Salman Abedi struck four days later, at an Ariana Grande, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds of others.

An inquiry into the attack heard Mr Lavery had reported the individual he had spotted – who was not Abedi and had no links to terrorism – in the days after the suicide bombing.

But it also heard Abedi, 22, was himself in the City Room on May 18 conducting hostile reconnaissance.

He briefly watched concertgoers queue about 35 minutes before the individual entered the foyer.

Ex-police officer Jonathan Lavery said a ‘suspicious’ man was seen filming in the foyer of the music venue ahead of a Take That concert on May 18. Suicide bomber Salman Abedi (pictured) struck four days later, at an Ariana Grande, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds of others

The inquiry also heard Abedi, 22, was himself in the City Room on May 18 conducting hostile reconnaissance before the attack at the Manchester Arena (pictured: Police at the scene)

Mr Lavery, an operations executive at the Arena’s security provider, Showsec, said the individual he spotted and attempted to detain ‘stood out like a sore thumb’ before the start of a Take That concert – because he ‘did not fit the demographic’ of someone who would attend the gig. 

He concluded the suspect needed to be stopped after he thought he acted furtively in the Arena’s City Room foyer and appeared to be filming people on a mobile phone.

Salman Abedi on the night he carried out the attack, which killed 22 people and injured hundreds of others

Mr Lavery thought the man may have a sexual motive or he was carrying out reconnaissance for a terrorist attack, the inquiry sitting in Manchester was told.

He said: ‘I was looking for individuals who did not fit the demographic of those who should be attending the event.

‘He was wearing a black tracksuit, I think the hood was up.

‘I am convinced he had a mobile phone in front of him, waving it around.’

He told inquiry chair Sir John Saunders that the profile of Take That fans was females, ranging in age, who would travel from around the country to watch the group.

He said: ‘So that individual actually stood out like a sore thumb.’ 

He concluded the man ‘needed stopped’ and considered detaining him as a member of public until police arrived but lost sight of him.

The individual managed to board a train from Manchester Victoria to Leeds unobstructed.

He was later ruled out by police of having any involvement with the atrocity that followed, or having any known terrorism links. 

Mr Lavery, who had 30 years experience in the police and who joined Showsec in February 2017, was not working on the night of the bombing.

But the next day emailed the firm’s managing director to flag up the May 18 incident and the man with the ‘bulging rucksack’.

Abedi (pictured on the night of the attack) briefly watched concertgoers queue about 35 minutes before the individual entered the foyer four nights earlier

Sir John asked Mr Lavery if Abedi, who had been to the City Room on a couple of occasions, would have ‘stood out’.

The witness replied: ‘I’m not 100% sure, I didn’t see him.’

The public inquiry has heard of ‘missed opportunities’ in the hours before as Abedi was sighted dressed in black and bent over by the weight of the shrapnel packing his home-made explosives in a large rucksack on his back.

Both police and security workers received reports of suspicions from members of the public about Abedi on the evening of May 22. 

Abed died in the blast. His younger brother Hashem Abedi, now 23, was convicted of 22 counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of conspiracy to cause an explosion following a trial in March

He was jailed for a minimum of 55 years in August.

The inquiry, which is investigating the circumstances around the attack and expected to finish next spring, continues.

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