A security guard reportedly had a “bad feeling” as he looked at the Manchester Arena suicide bomber Salman Abedi at the venue in May 2017, but did not approach him for fear of being called a racist. The information was revealed during a public inquiry on Tuesday, October 27. The guard, Kyle Lawler, who was 18 at the time of the terror attack, was on duty when his colleague Mohammed Agha told him that someone had raised concerns about Abedi who was roaming around the arena at an Ariana Grande concert.
Lawler, in a statement to police, said that he stood 10 or 15 feet away from Abedi at the time but did not do anything. “I felt unsure about what to do. It’s very difficult to define a terrorist,” the Showsec security guard said. “For all I knew he might well be an innocent Asian male. I did not want people to think I am stereotyping him because of his race. I was scared of being wrong and being branded a racist if I got it wrong and would have got into trouble. It made me hesitant. I wanted to get it right and not mess it up by over-reacting or judging someone by their race.”
Counsel to the inquiry, Paul Greaney QC, then asked Lawler: “If you were to approach him and he was some innocent kid, people might think you were racist?” To which Lawler replied, saying: “Yes.” A concerned parent at the concert, Christopher Wild, had reported Abedi, who was reportedly dressed in black clothes and was carrying a bulky rucksack, and was looking “dodgy.” Wild had also reportedly asked Abedi what was he carrying in his rucksack.
Wild, while speaking during the inquiry, said that he felt “fobbed off” when he raised the issue with security. Agha, however, said that he could not immediately pass on Wild’s concerns about Abedi as he was guarding a fire exit and it was the practice to not leave the exit unattended. However, Agha relayed Wild’s concern to Lawler eight minutes later because he had a radio.
Lawler, during the public inquiry in Manchester, claimed that he struggled to radio the control room to pass on the information about Abedi. Just minutes later, the suspect left his position and was out of sight of CCTV in the foyer of the arena, known as the City Room. The 22-year-old reportedly walked towards the crowd coming from the arena after the gig on May 22, 2017 at 10.31 pm. Abedi was reportedly spotted smiling seconds before he detonated his home-made rucksack bomb that killed 22 bystanders and wounded a hundred others.
Lawler also told the inquiry that he was trained on counter-terrorism and was aware the terror threat level at the time was “severe,” suggesting an attack was imminent. “I think I was naive at the time to the situation. It was one of those things, it was possible but it wouldn’t happen to me. You see it on the news, it’s not on your doorstep,” he told the inquest.