Manchester Arena attack survivor demands ‘truth’ from MI5

Martin Hibbert, who was paralysed in 2017 atrocity, speaks out before inquiry publishes final report

A man left paralysed by the Manchester Arena attack has said he wants the truth and not “excuses” from MI5, as it faces damning criticism from an inquiry into the atrocity.

Martin Hibbert said he wanted to know “why it happened and how it happened” when the inquiry publishes its long-anticipated final report about the blast on Thursday.

However, Hibbert, who was at the Manchester Arena with his daughter, said he feared the full picture would remain secret because much of MI5’s evidence was heard in private for national security reasons.

The 46-year-old said he believed the security services had “messed up” and that multiple red flags had been missed regarding Salman Abedi, who killed 22 people and injured scores of others when he detonated a bomb in his rucksack in the foyer of the Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017.

Hibbert told the Guardian: “I want to know how this atrocity happened. I want to know why my daughter won’t do the things she wanted to do and why she’ll probably be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life and be brain damaged. I want to know why I’m in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.

“I want to know the truth so that we can move on. I don’t want an apology because that’s not going to bring anything about. If they were sorry, they would have said it at day one – this happened and we hold our hands up. They’re only holding their hands up because it’s there in black and white.”

Hibbert was on a “daddy daughter day” with his 14-year-old daughter, Eve. They were standing just 5 metres from Abedi when he triggered the blast at the end of an Ariana Grande concert and are believed to have been the closest people to the bomb to survive.

The Manchester Arena inquiry, chaired by Sir John Saunders, will on Thursday publish its third and final report, focusing on the preventability of the attack and the radicalisation of Abedi.

In hearings held behind closed doors in 2021, MI5 officers admitted they had enough intelligence to regard 22-year-old Abedi, from Manchester, as a threat to national security and open an investigation.

One MI5 officer, known as Witness J, told the inquiry that Abedi should have been questioned on his return from Libya, four days before the blast, which could have stopped the atrocity.

However, the witness said this would have required surveillance and for Abedi to have been classed as a “very high priority” threat. MI5 is also expecting scrutiny into its monitoring of Abedi’s extremist connections.

Hibbert, who raised almost £1m for the Spinal Injuries Association after scaling Kilimanjaro last year, said he did not want to hear “excuses” or an apology from the security services. He said he wanted “the truth” and for the government to commit to implementing any recommendations made by Saunders.

“It won’t surprise me if they blame [a lack of] staff and money and the amount of terrorists they were looking after. I don’t want to hear that. I don’t want to hear excuses. I want to know why it happened and how it happened, and how it’s not going to happen again. As hard as that will be to read, I want to know.”

He added: “It’s like we’ve seen with Hillsborough: it’s alright saying we’ll learn from it but even after the 7/7 bombings the recommendations after that weren’t implemented. The same recommendations will probably be said in this report.

“When are the emergency services and the government and the state going to act on these recommendations so that if this does happen, we’re ready?”


Josh Halliday North of England correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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