‘We've seen him, he's fine’: Manchester Arena guard ‘fobbed off’ concerns seconds before explosion

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·3 min read
File photo dated 22/05/17 of the scene close to the Manchester Arena after the terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert. Hashem Abedi, brother of the Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi, is due to be sentenced for his part in the atrocity, more than three years after 22 people were murdered and hundreds of others were hurt.
Armed police close to the Manchester Arena after the terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert in 2017. (PA)

A security guard downplayed concerns about Manchester Arena terrorist Salman Abedi just seconds before he detonated a bomb, a public inquiry has heard.

Thomas McCallum was waiting to pick up his step-daughter and her friend in the City Room or foyer of the Manchester Arena, where terrorist Abedi was hiding at the back, waiting for the crowd to emerge at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.

Abedi detonated his home-made rucksack bomb at 10.30pm on 22 May, 2017, killing 22 bystanders and injuring hundreds more.

About 15 minutes earlier McCallum said he overheard a conversation near him between Christopher Wild, another waiting parent, and Mohammed Agha, a Showsec security guard.

Salman Abedi detonated his home-made rucksack bomb at 10.30pm on 22 May, 2017, killing 22 bystanders and injuring hundreds more.
Salman Abedi detonated his home-made rucksack bomb at 10.30pm on 22 May, 2017, killing 22 bystanders and injuring hundreds more.

McCallum, standing five feet away, recounted Wild’s words to the security guard.

“He said something along the lines of, ‘Have you seen the guy up there? He is totally out of it?’ Words to that effect,” McCallum said.

“I would say he was concerned, certainly enough for me to notice it and register it. Concern would be the overriding emotion.”

Nicholas de la Poer, counsel to the inquiry, asked the witness: “What was it the security guard said in reply?”

McCallum said: “It was along the lines of, ‘Yeah, yeah, we have seen him. He’s fine’.

Watch: Father confronted ‘dodgy looking’ bomber

“My overriding memory is, it was really quite dismissive – ‘Yes we have seen him, it’s OK’.”

He added: “My immediate thought was, it must be something security deal with all the time.

“I presumed it was someone who was drunk, so I did not think any further of it.”

Minutes later Abedi detonated his device, which left McCallum “significantly injured” and was evacuated from the room in a wheelchair.

On Tuesday the inquiry heard from Wild, who said he had noticed Abedi with a “massive” rucksack and thought he looked “dodgy” and his presence there “strange”.

He approached the bomber saying, “What have you got in the rucksack?” then approached Agha, but was “fobbed off”.

File photo dated 22/05/17 of the scene close to the Manchester Arena after the terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert. Hashem Abedi, brother of the Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi, is due to be sentenced for his part in the atrocity, more than three years after 22 people were murdered and hundreds of others were hurt.
Police attend to crowds after Salman Abedi detonated a home-made bomb at Manchester Arena. (PA)

Daniel Perry, who worked for Showsec from 2013 and was an operations executive, told the inquiry he had undergone online counter-terrorism training.

On the night of the bombing his role included “access control” or manning doors to the Arena, queue management, searches and “profiling” people.

Perry said it was at the discretion of Showsec staff who was searched based on profiling.

Chairman of the inquiry Sir John Saunders asked the witness about searches, if anyone wearing a big coat, inappropriate for the weather, or “anyone having a rucksack, had to be checked?”

Perry replied: “I would say so. I think it’s a rule and also in training that we receive.”

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - May 22, 2020 -- A tribute is seen memorizing the Manchester Arena attack in Manchester, England, May 22, 2020.   Manchester on Friday marked the third anniversary of the terrorist attack which killed 22 people and injured hundreds. The attack happened when Salman Abedi detonated a bomb at the end of a concert by U.S. pop singer Ariana Grande on May 22, 2017. (Photo by Jon Super/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Jon Super via Getty Images)
A tribute to the victims of the Manchester Arena attack in Manchester. (Getty)

He said he was not aware of the “blind spot” in CCTV coverage of the area of the mezzanine level of the City Room, outside the Arena, where Abedi was hiding after he carried out “hostile reconnaissance” in planning the attack.

Perry said staff are told that if they see anybody suspicious, always to report it, if someone is seen “lingering around in an area”.

Perry was blown off his feet and injured in the blast, and after assisting a colleague, helped to safely evacuate the crowd and away from the blast site.

The public inquiry, expected to end next spring, continues.

Watch: MI5 missed ‘highly relevant’ intelligence on Salman Abedi