Hashem Abedi: Manchester Arena bomber’s brother refuses to attend sentencing for murder of 22 victims

Judge says he cannot order force to bring plotter to face victims’ relatives gathered in court

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
@lizziedearden
Wednesday 19 August 2020 20:18
Manchester Arena bomber’s brother found guilty of plot that killed 22

The Manchester Arena bomber’s brother has refused to attend court to be sentenced over the terror attack.

Hashem Abedi would not leave the Old Bailey’s cells on Wednesday to face the parents and relatives of victims killed in the 2017 bombing.

The 23-year-old, who also refused to give evidence at his trial, will be jailed for 22 counts of murder after helping his brother Salman prepare for the attack.

Mr Justice Jeremy Baker: “I have required in this case Hashem Abedi to be brought to Central Criminal Court.

“My understanding is that, having been brought to this building, Hashem Abedi has refused to come into the courtroom.

“That is a matter for HM Probation Service rather than myself. Force cannot be used.”

Some victims’ relatives were in the Old Bailey, while others joined survivors to view the hearing by live link from Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow.

The court heard that Abedi would have been eligible for a whole-life sentence had he been over the age of 21 at the time of the Manchester Arena bombing, on 22 May 2017.

In March, Abedi was found guilty of 22 counts of murder, attempted murder of the injured survivors, and plotting to cause an explosion.

He denied all charges and initially told police he wanted to cooperate with them in order to prove his innocence, but was absent for much of his trial and sacked his legal team.

Investigators believe he may have masterminded the suicide bombing, which was carried out by his older brother Salman, but Abedi could not be questioned in court because he refused to give evidence.

Hashem Abedi was found guilty of 22 counts of murder

Relatives of the victims read out emotional impact statements at Wednesday’s hearing.

The mothers of teenage sweethearts Chloe Rutherford and Liam Curry told of their devastation.

Lisa Rutherford said: “As a family we need answers – we are destroyed.”

Caroline Curry held up a photo of 19-year-old Liam and appeared to address some of her comments to the absent Abedi.

She said: “You took from me something more precious than gold, a beautiful boy, inside and out. I want you to look at Liam and remember the beautiful boy that was snatched away.

“Your actions have caused this heartbreak. I just feel cheated. You took his future, my future, my family’s future.”

Figen Murray, mother of 29-year-old Martyn Hett, described how she is now unable to go to bed until after 10.31pm, the time the bomb went off.

She said: “I still cannot reconcile that I was fast asleep while my son lay dead on the floor, and I am ashamed about that.”

Samantha Leczkowski, mother of 14-year-old Sorrell Leczkowski, said her daughter’s “senseless death” has “devastated us all”.

She told the court: “Losing one of my children has killed me – I may as well be dead.”

A public inquiry into the bombing is scheduled to start next month, which will examine the brothers’ activities as well as potential failings by the security services to prevent the attack.

Prosecutor Duncan Penny QC told Abedi’s trial the Manchester bombing was the “culmination of months of planning, experimentation and preparation by the two” brothers.

“The law is that Hashem Abedi is just as responsible for this atrocity and for the offences identified in the indictment, just as surely as if he had selected the target and detonated the bomb himself,“ he added.

Witnesses said both brothers had developed a jihadist mindset, with one telling the court that Abedi “believed in terrorism”.

They went to school with Isis recruiter Abdulraouf Abdallah, who was jailed for helping Isis fighters travel to Syria in 2016, and later visited him in prison.

The trial heard details of how Abedi helped buy precursor chemicals to make explosives and “obtained and experimented with” bomb components.

Some of the purchases were made using benefits claimed by his mother in the UK, despite having moved back to Libya with the rest of the family during its civil war.

Mr Penny said Abedi was “at times chauffeur, at times quartermaster, at times electrical technician” in the plot, but then attempted to evade any responsibility for his role after moving back to Libya.

Police believe Abedi took the final call his brother made before blowing himself up, which was made for four minutes to the family’s Libyan home.

His fingerprints were found in a car and properties that were used to store explosive chemicals, as well as on shrapnel from the blast.

Abedi was detained in Libya less than 48 hours after his brother detonated the suicide bomb, and extradited to the UK two years later.

Isis claimed the responsibility for the bombing, which was the second and deadliest terror attack to strike Britain in 2017.

Additional reporting by PA