Manchester Arena Inquiry: police admit no emergency plan was in place

Senior officer tells of mistakes, lack of communication and failure to work together

Floral tributes at Albert Square in Manchester, placed to commemorate the victims of the terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017. AFP
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A senior officer accepted police failed to have a contingency plan in place at Manchester Arena in the event of a major incident.

Chief Supt Allan Gregory, of British Transport Police, gave evidence at the public inquiry into the Manchester Arena terror attack.

Salman Abedi detonated a bomb in May 2017 at the end of an Ariana Grande concert, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds.

The hearing was told the arena was the UK’s only entertainment venue of such scale under the control of the transport police and Mr Gregory said there was no contingency plan in case of a major emergency.

When asked if this was an omission, he said: "In light of that awful event in May 2017, clearly that is a conclusion I would have to agree with."

He told the hearing that emergency services had failed to work together and said the local police force had failed to liaise with transport police.

Mr Gregory said he regretted not communicating with commanders of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and Greater Manchester Police.

"I should have been more diligent around reaching out and having conversations about what they understood," he said.

British Transport Police Chief Insp Tony Lodge told the inquiry that nearly an hour after the attack he was still trying to establish who had primary control.

Gold commander Robin Smith said better communication between emergency services was needed.

"Half the challenge is knowing who to ring and you are trying to ring the busiest people in the organisation," he said.

"The key thing is who you need to talk to."

Mr Smith suggested a WhatsApp group to aid communication.

"I think we could do that and I do not think it would be difficult. We can do better if we can communicate.

"That is what I would have enjoyed on the night."

During the inquiry, the emergency services were criticised for their slow response and relatives and survivors condemned delays in the treatment of victims and the evacuation.

The Manchester Arena Inquiry, set up by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel in October, is examining the circumstances of the attack and whether any opportunities to prevent it were missed.

Suicide bomber Abedi, 22, died as he detonated a rucksack bomb in a foyer.

His younger brother, Hashem Abedi, was convicted last year on 22 counts of murder, one of attempted murder and one of conspiracy to cause an explosion.

He was sentenced to jail for a minimum of 55 years.