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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Josh Halliday North of England correspondent and Helen Pidd North of England editor

Manchester Arena inquiry: victims’ families respond to final report

Floral tributes in St Ann's Square, Manchester, on the first anniversary of the attack on 22 May 2018
Floral tributes in St Ann's Square, Manchester, on the first anniversary of the attack on 22 May 2018. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Families of the victims of the Manchester Arena attack accused MI5 of a “devastating” failure after an official inquiry found the spy agency had missed a “significant opportunity” to stop the blast carried out by Salman Abedi. Here, they respond to the inquiry’s verdict:

Andrew Roussos, whose eight-year-old daughter, Saffie-Rose, was killed in the blast

“Our beautiful little girl lost her life because of the failings of the security services and today’s report acknowledges that MI5 might have prevented the bombing.

“We all heard the evidence and knew there were failings, but hearing how this tragedy might have been avoided is devastating for us all. This was a cataclysmic failure, and it is clear from all of the evidence we have heard about Abedi that there were many opportunities for the security services to have ensured the bombing never happened. In my view the fact that MI5 failed to stop him despite all of the red flags available demonstrates they are not fit to keep us safe and therefore not fit for purpose.”

Caroline Curry, whose 19-year-old son, Liam Curry, was killed alongside his 17-year-old girlfriend, Chloe Rutherford

“All we as families have asked for from day one is the truth, acknowledgment of failure [and] a determination to make sure those failures are fixed so that next time, because there will be a next time, but hopefully next time there won’t be as many families going through the utter heartbreak we’ve had to endure for the last five years, nine months, one week and one day.

“We didn’t get that acknowledgment from anyone other than GMFRS [Greater Manchester fire and rescue service], until the chairman’s reports were published. Shame on you all.

“In this volume of the report, the chair has recognised that there was a significant missed opportunity by MI5 which, had they taken action, could ultimately have changed the course of what happened that night.

“He also identified a lack of information sharing between the police and security services. We hope lessons really will be learned this time.

“However, there were some heroes that night and to name a few: Sgt Kam Hare, Insp Mike Smith, Ch Insp Mark Dexter, and civilians Bethany Crook, Ronald Blake and Darron Costa. This is where the medals should have gone.

“We have sat through eight weeks at the Old Bailey and over two years at the inquiry. We have read countless statements, listened to hours of evidence, and we can only hope that one day the whole truth will come out and that others – including the fugitive brother and parents – face justice because we will never believe they were in this alone.

“Forgiveness will never be an option for such evil intentions and those that played any part in the murder of our children will never, ever get forgiveness. From top to bottom, MI5 to the associates of the attacker, we will always believe that you all played a part in the murder of our children.

“We will spend the rest of our lives trying to protect our boys because as we found out through this process: once you leave the safety of your home, you are on your own.

“So many people being paid that night to protect our kids, and yet so many failed in their duties. Professionals that had responsibility but clearly had other priorities. Security staff that even when told of the danger failed to act appropriately. Once again, we’ll never forgive you.

“Nothing can bring Liam and Chloe back. Nothing. But we won’t let them be forgotten. We have set up a charity in their names as a lasting legacy, to show that from such acts of heartbreak something positive can rise. We will continue to campaign to be allowed to register the personal detail on their death certificate and we won’t rest until all those involved in their deaths are brought to justice.”

Figen Murray, the mother of Martyn Hett, makes a statement outside Manchester magistrates court on Thursday
Figen Murray, the mother of Martyn Hett, makes a statement outside Manchester magistrates court on Thursday. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Figen Murray, the mother of Martyn Hett

“Today is not the day for looking back. Today is the day for moving forward and for everyone concerned to learn from their mistakes and take heed of the recommendations. Terrorism continues to pervade our society and as a nation we need to be better prepared to deal with it. It seems terrorists are always a step or two ahead of us and we need to catch up fast. All three volumes [of the inquiry] pointed to an abundance of mistakes and failures by a raft of different organisations, services and people. We need more cohesion and more communication between our services. We need a more efficient system in place to ensure the different pieces of the jigsaw are put together. We are not here to point fingers. The bottom line is: everyone who made mistakes, every service that was lacking on the night, every organisation who missed something in the lead-up to the attack is now aware of their failings. This brings about the opportunity to make those necessary changes and improvements to avoid another atrocity. To fail to do so again will prove to be another catastrophic mistake.

“Over recent years I have been working with the security industry, the police and counter-terrorism. From this work I have seen that like the emergency services, these organisations are starting to work in unison and make the crucial improvements based on the previous recommendations made by Sir James Saunders. Now that the inquiry has reached its conclusion, I will continue to work with the government on Martyn’s law. I alongside my husband, Stuart, will also continue to work with Survivors Against Terror to ensure a victims’ charter is established to support future victims of terrorism. This is where our focus will now be.”

Dr Stuart Murray, Martyn Hett’s stepdad

“We are from Manchester, the city of bees, and there is something that has been buzzing around in my head for the last few days. Shortly after the attack, St Ann’s Square was full of people from all over the country singing an Oasis song. Don’t Look Back In Anger, I heard them say.”

Richard Scorer, principal lawyer at Slater and Gordon, who represented 11 of the families

“Today’s report has been deeply painful to read, but also eye opening. On the issue of the preventability of this attack, inevitably the report provides less information than we would have wanted. But it is now very clear that there was a failure to properly assess key intelligence about Salman Abedi; a failure to put it into proper context; and – most catastrophic of all – a delay in acting on it. As a result of these failures, at the very least, a real possibility of preventing this attack was lost. This is a devastating conclusion for us.

“The failures exposed in this report are unacceptable. The public are entitled to expect that information of national security importance will be acted on speedily, and – crucially – that the system will ensure that this happens. It MUST do so in the future. We note that Sir John will be making recommendations in his closed report. We trust that these recommendations will be acted on, and that Sir John will be vigilant in monitoring their implementation.

“We welcome the other conclusions and recommendations in this report. It is clear that Salman Abedi should have been referred to Prevent. It is clear that the education system needs to be more vigilant in picking up signs of radicalisation. It is clear that Didsbury mosque turned a blind eye to extremism in its midst. Sir John’s report today contains many lessons; we must heed every one of them and make the necessary changes urgently.

“On 22 May 2017, thousands of people left their homes to attend a concert at Manchester Arena. Twenty-two of those would never return home. Those killed and injured in this murderous attack had every right to feel safe and protected, but as this inquiry has demonstrated, they were failed at every level – before, during and after this horrific attack. Even now, some families feel let down by the government’s refusal to allow them to register their loved one’s death, which for some is a key part of the grieving process and which is now wrongly being denied to them.

“Finally we want to pay tribute to Sir John Saunders and the inquiry legal team for their unwavering determination to uncover the truth. We thank the inquiry support staff and the resilience hub for their support throughout. As this process now ends, we pay tribute to those who lost their lives. We also ask that our privacy is respected as we process the inquiry’s findings.”

Nicola Brook, a solicitor from Broudie Jackson Canter who represents five victims’ families

“The families who lost loved ones note that the report has acknowledged that there were significant failings by security services and that this tragedy might have been prevented if the security services had done their job properly. Throughout the inquiry, M15 maintained that no one else was knowingly involved in the attack. However, the chair has found that it is likely that there were others knowingly involved in plotting a bomb.

“He also found that it was likely that Salman and Hashem Abedi received instruction to make an IED [improvised explosive device] in Libya in 2016. He said there was a ‘material possibility’ that Salman Abedi acquired the switch that detonated the bomb in Libya and that it was possible that he was carrying the switch with him when he returned to the UK via Manchester airport on 18t May 2017. The families believe that had he been stopped on entry to the UK it is likely that the plot would have been discovered or disrupted.

“It is disappointing that the families will never know the full truth of what happened. All of the families signed an undertaking not to reveal confidential information which they have not breached. They, above all others are entitled to know what the security services knew and had the most interest in keeping it confidential. We also note that additional information that wasn’t available to Lord Anderson in his post-attack review and was only available to the chair after he pursued it. This is why we are campaigning for the introduction of a Hillsborough law to ensure public officials have a duty to tell the truth to public inquiries or face criminal action.”

Helen Boniface, counsel at Hogan Lovells, who represented six of the families

“We fully support the chair’s findings and recommendations in the Manchester Arena public inquiry. It’s clear that a lack of coordination and communication between the different services and institutions significantly contributed to the failings on the night. Such institutional errors should not have occurred, especially since some of these shortcomings were known before the attack.

“We have represented bereaved families in inquiries including the 7/7 attacks, London Westminster and London Bridge inquests and it is always disappointing to see that shortcomings remain on topics that have been considered previously. As well as the issues raised with internal MI5 procedures, we are pleased that the chairman has repeated the recommendation from the London Bridge inquests that legislative change is needed to enable prosecution of those possessing the most serious material which glorifies or encourages terrorism, as we saw again in the online presence of Hashem Abedi and other associates of the attacker in this case.

“Our safety practice will work to ensure recommendations are implemented to reduce the likelihood of similar attacks. This inquiry has been crucial in holding those responsible accountable for their actions, and we stand with the families in their pursuit of justice and healing.”

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