Manchester Arena inquiry: MI5 director apologises for not stopping attack as families give moving statement

The Manchester Arena Inquiry has concluded intelligence could have led to suicide bomber Salman Abedi being followed to the car where he stored his explosives
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

The director of MI5 has apologised to family and friends of the Manchester Arena terrorist attack, saying he is “profoundly sorry” that MI5 did not prevent the attack.

In a recorded statement following the conclusion of the Manchester Arena Inquiry, MI5 Director General Ken McCallum said he deeply regrets that intelligence was not obtained which could have prevented the terrorist incident.

MI5 missed a “significant” opportunity to stop the Manchester Arena bomb attack in May 2017, the Manchester Arena Inquiry concluded. The public inquiry was led by chairman Sir John Saunders who said the intelligence could have led to suicide bomber Salman Abedi being followed to a car where he stored his explosives.

The inquiry heard that Manchester-born Abedi had been on the radar of the security services as early as 2010 - seven years before the bombing on May 22, 2017. Twenty-two people died and hundreds were injured when Abedi detonated a bomb he was carrying in a ruck sack at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.

Families of those who tragically lost their lives in the attack responded in a statement read by Richard Scorer, principal lawyer at Slater and Gordon who represented 11 of the families during the inquiry.

The statement said: “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.”

Police on duty outside the Manchester Arena following the terrorist attack there. Photo: Getty ImagesPolice on duty outside the Manchester Arena following the terrorist attack there. Photo: Getty Images
Police on duty outside the Manchester Arena following the terrorist attack there. Photo: Getty Images

In a statement following the conclusion of the inquiry, head of MI5, Mr McCallum said: “The terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena was a terrible tragedy.  The bomber killed 22 innocent people and harmed many others.

“My thoughts are with the families and friends of those killed, and with all those whose lives were changed by this appalling act of terrorism. Having examined all the evidence, the Chair of the Inquiry has found that “there was a realistic possibility that actionable intelligence could have been obtained which might have led to actions preventing the attack.”

“I deeply regret that such intelligence was not obtained.  Gathering covert intelligence is difficult – but had we managed to seize the slim chance we had, those impacted might not have experienced such appalling loss and trauma.

“I am profoundly sorry that MI5 did not prevent the attack. The people of MI5 and our policing partners come to work every day to stop terrorism.  We continually work to improve the counter-terrorism system; since the terrible events of 2017 we have made more than 100 improvements.

“But we are determined to do more. As the Chair now considers his recommendations, we will engage fully. Where there are opportunities to strengthen the UK’s defences further, MI5 will act.

“We will continue to do everything in our power to keep our country safe from hidden threats. MI5 exists to stop atrocities. To all those whose lives were forever changed on that awful night: I am so sorry that MI5 did not prevent the attack at the Manchester Arena.”

Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, said she was “grateful” to Sir John Saunders for heading up the inquiry and vowed to “do everything possible” to stop a similar attack from happening in the future.