Manchester Arena inquiry: People were 'let down' on night of attack, police admit

·2-min read

British Transport Police (BTP) "let people down" on the night of the Manchester Arena attack when officers left the foyer where the bomb was set off unguarded, a senior officer has admitted.

No police officer was in the City Room at the moment of the attack or for most of the time the bomber Salman Abedi was hiding there, despite instructions to make sure it was patrolled.

Two officers took a meal break of more than two hours and there were no officers patrolling when Abedi made his final journey from the tram platform of Victoria Station to the City Room foyer.

The most senior officer who was supposed to be on duty never turned up, having claimed that he was doing a "drive by" inspection of an unnamed "sensitive site".

Giving evidence to the inquiry, Assistant Chief Constable Sean O'Callaghan of British Transport Police accepted that they had "let the public down".

Paul Greaney QC, for the inquiry, asked: "Is it fair to say, on May 22 2017, British Transport Police let the public down in the policing of the City Room?"

ACC O'Callaghan replied: "The attack that happened that night certainly happened on our watch and not a day goes past that we do not consider that.

"Did we let people down? It was our responsibility to police that area and there were police officers planned to be deployed to the site of the attack and they were not there, so in those terms, yes."

ACC O'Callaghan disagreed the force had failed to supervise its officers properly, adding: "Police officers hold great responsibility and the expectation of the force is that when tasks are given, they are followed. I do not see it as a lack of supervision, as much as a lack of application of task."

The BTP did not perform a risk assessment for a terrorist attack on the venue, the inquiry was told.

ACC O'Callaghan said: "Many hundreds of concert events had been going on up and down the country.

"There was nothing to focus the mind in terms of whether a person-borne IED was plausible at the time."

The public inquiry into the suicide attack which killed 22 people and injured hundreds of others is expected to last until next spring.