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‘Naive’ guard missed last chance to stop Manchester bomber minutes before attack

Written by on 27/10/2020

A security guard who missed the last chance to stop the Manchester Arena bomber minutes before the attack has told an inquiry he was “naive” about the possibility of a terrorist incident.

Kyle Lawler, then an 18-year-old steward, said he had received training in what to look out for but believed a terror attack “won’t happen to me”.

He failed to alert his control room about bomber Salman Abedi, who was hiding in an area at the back of the City Room foyer, after being told about Abedi six minutes before the explosion.

Salman Abedi
Image: Bomber Salman Abedi died in the suicide attack

It was the last chance to stop the audience at the Ariana Grande concert leaving the arena before the blast in May 2017, which killed 22 people.

Mr Lawler told the inquiry he tried to call his bosses on his radio but could not get through.

Paul Greaney, QC for the inquiry, asked: “When you went to work, were you aware you had to be alert to the material risk of terrorist attack?”

Mr Lawler said: “I think I was quite naive at the time, one of those things where, yes it was a possibility, but it won’t happen to me.

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“You see it on the news and it is always not on your doorstep.”

Mr Lawler said he had been working for Showsec – the security contractors at the arena – since leaving school at 16, earning £4.24 an hour, but he had never had to deal with a suspicious person before that evening.

Abedi is seen in a lift on the night of the attack
Image: Abedi was seen on CCTV in a lift on the night of the attack

He had heard in briefings that the threat of a terrorist attack was “severe”, meaning an attack was “highly likely”, adding: “The news was heavily reporting on it as well and I went on the ‘gov’ website to gain some knowledge of what this meant.”

Mr Lawler had passed his Security Industry Association training four months before the attack and he was a designated radio holder.

“I didn’t actively go seeking for the more responsibility but Showsec knew that I was always willing to do above and beyond,” he told the inquiry.

Mr Lawler accepted that he had been trained in how to spot similar behaviour to that exhibited by Abedi.

The bomber sits on a low wall in the arena's foyer
Image: Abedi (bottom left) was seen sitting in the foyer before the bombing

A video called Eyes Wide Open was played, which told stewards what to look out for, and highlighted the threat to concert venues.

It included a case study in which a suspect had been coming in and out and hanging around at a venue for prolonged period.

Mr Greaney asked: “Were those things you had in mind to keep an eye out for when you were a steward?”

Mr Lawler replied: “Yes. You make your observations first, try and look for the behaviours, whether they are out of place.”

He added that he had to notify his control who would look at the suspect and “if you get through to control they’ll basically tell you what they think and advise you on the next step.”

Mr Greaney asked: “You did know the kind of things to look out for?”

Mr Lawler replied: “Yes”.

Manchester attack victims
Image: Twenty-two people died in the Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017

The inquiry heard that the training video advised: “Know what normal behaviour looks like. What excuses can they give you, what questions can you ask? Know your reporting procedures.”

A police officer adds: “Approaching someone and asking them to explain their behaviour can be uncomfortable for both of you.

“If you are clear, calm and polite most members of the public will be understanding. You and you colleagues being alert could just be enough to deter a terrorist.”

Mr Lawler told the inquiry: “Personally I think people skills, you have to deal with people to gain that experience. I don’t think any classroom based or online module can teach you skills about how to speak to people.”

Before he began his evidence, a statement was read to the inquiry in which Mr Lawler said: “I found it very difficult to give a clear account of what happened, to disentangle what I saw and thought then with what I know now with the benefit of hindsight in circumstances where everything happened quickly.”

 Sky News

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