Manchester Arena bombing inquiry suspended after coronavirus outbreak
22nd October 2020

Public inquiry into Manchester Arena terror attack is suspended until next week after three court staff tested positive for coronavirus

  • Hearing, at Manchester Magistrates’ Court, was due to continue on Thursday
  • Panel was set to hear evidence from Metropolitan Police’s Lucy D’Orsi
  • Coronavirus cases included three suspected ones, also among court staff
  • Statement said the cases were not directly connected to the Manchester inquiry 

The inquiry into the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing has been suspended after three court staff were confirmed to have coronavirus.  

The hearing on Thursday at Manchester Magistrates’ Court, which was due to listen to evidence from Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Lucy D’Orsi, was adjourned ‘as a precaution.’

In a statement the inquiry said the cases – which also included three other suspected ones – had all occurred in staff working at the court in the last week.

‘The cases are not directly connected to the Manchester Arena Inquiry. It is hoped the hearings will resume on Monday, subject to advice that it is safe to continue,’ the statement said.

‘The safety of everyone attending the Manchester Arena Inquiry is our priority.’

The inquiry into the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing has been suspended after three court staff were confirmed to have coronavirus. Pictured: Suicide bomber Salman Abedi on the day of the attack

The hearing on Thursday at Manchester Magistrates’ Court, which was due to listen to evidence from Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lucy D’Orsi, was adjourned ‘as a precaution’

The suspension comes after a series of revelations at the public inquiry into the terror attack by suicide bomber Salman Abedi  – which killed 22 people and injured hundreds of others on May 22, 2017. 

On Tuesday, the inquiry heard from a former soldier who stood on Abedi by accident as he was hiding before detonating his bomb.

Martin McGuffie, who had served with the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment for 22 years, was a civilian at the time and is now a police officer in Manchester.

He was acting as ‘dad’s cabs’ for his wife and daughter who were at the concert and decided it was too far to go back home.

Instead he decided to sit and wait for them in the City Room and read a book until the concert finished.

Towards the end of the concert PC McGuffie decided to go and look for a toilet and literally stepped on Salman Abedi, he said.

‘I was startled, I said, ‘f**king hell’. I just wondered what he was doing there,’ he told the inquiry.

Abedi asked him if he was looking for a toilet and told him the nearest one was in the station – where he is thought to have primed his bomb.

On Tuesday, the inquiry heard from former soldier Martin McGuffie who stood on Abedi by accident as he was hiding before detonating his bomb 

He was sitting on the ground dressed all in black, wearing a baseball cap and glasses, and with a rucksack behind him and both arms through the straps.

PC McGuffie said: ‘I just thought why is he there? I only had 10 minutes or so before I knew the concert would finish so I needed to get down to the station to get to the toilet and then get back to my wife and daughter.’

At the time he thought it was ‘very unusual’ and ‘very strange’ that he was there, and immediately afterwards he came to the conclusion Abedi was hiding, and told a police officer.

‘He was definitely trying to stay out of sight, there was no other reason for him to be there,’ PC McGuffie told the inquiry.

CCTV images shown to the inquiry display Mr McGuffie in the red square (top image) as Abedi enters the foyer (red circle) before Mr McGuffie moves to a merchandise stand to stretch his legs

Mr McGuffie (red square) returned to reading his book on the bench as Abedi (red circle) re-entered the City Room. Mr McGuffie then walked up to mezzanine where he stood on Abedi

The spot where Salman Abedi hid from CCTV by sitting on the ground where he was stood on by Martin McGuffie while looking for a toilet before the concert ended at Manchester Arena

Another father who was also waiting to collect his daughters told the inquiry the bomber looked ‘like a Bond villain’ and a ‘terrorist’ moments before he set off his devastating rucksack device.

Neil Hatfield was waiting to collect his four daughters after Ariana Grande’s concert on May 22, 2017, when he saw a young man ‘in the process of lying down’.

He told the inquiry that he ‘thought ‘suicide bomber’ straight away’ and had ‘very little doubt’ after seeing the man – now known to be bomber Salman Abedi – with a ‘rock solid’ backpack.

Mr Hatfield, whose daughters were injured but survived the attack, was approaching a staircase to the raised mezzanine level of the City Room foyer about 10 minutes before the explosion at 10.31pm when he saw Abedi.

The Manchester Arena suicide bomber looked ‘like a Bond villain’ and a ‘terrorist’ moments before he set off his devastating rucksack device, witness Neil Hatfield told the inquiry into the terror attack

Mr Hatfield (pictured on the night of the attack)was waiting to collect his four daughters after the Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017, when he saw a young man ‘in the process of lying down’

British Transport Police (BTP) officer Jessica Bullough admitted to the inquiry she would ‘probably’ have asked Abedi what was in his rucksack had she seen him.

PC Bullough came back on patrol shortly after the suicide bomber walked along Victoria railway station platform towards the City Room foyer of the arena.

He then detonated his home-made explosives at the end of the Ariana Grande concert.

Pc Bullough told the public inquiry into the terror attack that her break should have been between 50 minutes and one hour.

But instead she was off patrol for two hours and nine minutes, during which she drove half an hour to buy a kebab with colleague Mark Renshaw, a police community support officer, before eating the takeaway at a Northern Rail office.

PC Jessica Bullough, pictured, went on an ‘unacceptable’ two-hour break the day of Salman Abedi’s suicide attack – and would ‘probably’ have asked what was in his rucksack had she seen him, an inquiry has heard

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