Second witness suspected Manchester Arena bomber was planning attack

Christopher Wild challenged Salman Abedi in the foyer of the arena during Ariana Grande concert

A second witness has told the inquiry into the Manchester Arena terror attack that he suspected that Salman Abedi might be a suicide bomber, and that he even challenged him over his presence at the concert.

Christopher Wild said he spoke to Abedi, 22, in the foyer of the arena, while he waited with his partner to pick up her daughter and her daughter’s friend after the Ariana Grande concert taking place that night.

Abedi’s appearance – dressed all in black with a large rucksack – and his apparent attempts to remain inconspicuous outside the event seemed strange, Wild told the public inquiry into the attack.

Wild said: “I just thought it was strange. It’s a kids concert. It just all seemed very strange to me why he would be sat there. He was keeping out of view and that’s another reason why I thought it was strange. I started to think about things that happened in the world, I just thought it could be dangerous.”

Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, which is taking place in Manchester, asked Wild: “What danger was it? What did you think he might do?”

Wild said: “Let a bomb off.”

On Monday the inquiry heard from Neil Hatfield, who also said he thought “suicide bomber” when he saw Abedi while waiting to collect his four daughters following the Grande concert.

Wild said he went as far as challenging Abedi over his presence in the Manchester Arena foyer: “I felt a bit bad about challenging him, but I asked what have you got in your rucksack?

“He didn’t reply, he just looked up at me.

“I said: ‘It doesn’t look very good you know, what you see with bombs and such, you with a rucksack like this in a place like this, what are you doing?’”

Wild said Abedi told him he was “waiting for someone” and asked him a couple of times “what the time was”.

“He seemed on edge, nervous,” Wild added.

Shortly after, at around 10.14pm, around 16 minutes before Abedi detonated his rucksack bomb, Wild approached a steward from Showsec, the security contractors for the arena.

He said he told him he was “very concerned” about the man, hiding with a large rucksack.

“He said he already knew about him and that was it really,” Wild said.

Wild was himself injured in the blast but not as seriously as his partner, Julie Whitley, who spent 11 days in hospital and has to “live with the consequences of that night to this day”, the hearing was told.

The inquiry, expected to conclude next spring, will continue on Wednesday morning.


Damien Gayle

The GuardianTramp

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