Hashem Abedi trial: Manchester attacker’s brother found guilty of murdering bomb victims

Victims’ families break down in tears of relief in court as terrorist faces life in prison

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
Tuesday 17 March 2020 16:09 GMT
Manchester Arena bomber’s brother found guilty of plot that killed 22

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The Manchester bomber’s brother has been found guilty of murdering the 22 victims of the blast.

Hashem Abedi helped his brother, Salman, build the bomb that was detonated at Manchester Arena in May 2017.

Prosecutors said he was “just as responsible for this atrocity ... as surely as if he had selected the target and detonated the bomb himself”.

The 22-year-old denied all charges but did not give evidence in his own defence during his Old Bailey trial, after sacking his legal team.

He was not in court as the jury unanimously found him guilty of murder, attempted murder of those injured and conspiring with his brother to cause explosions.

The judge said that Abedi would be jailed for life, but warned that the sentencing hearing could be delayed.

Relatives of the victims broke down in tears of relief when the verdicts were delivered on Tuesday, after a seven-week trial.

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

His fingerprints were found in a car and properties that were used to store explosive chemicals and shrapnel before the terror attack.

Abedi collected large cans from the takeaway where he worked that were fashioned into tubes for potential detonators.

A fragment of one of the cans, which he claimed he was going to sell for scrap, was found at the scene of 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.

He answered “no comment” in police interviews, but handed detectives a prepared statement through his solicitor in which he denied involvement and said he “could not comprehend“ his brother’s actions.

The statement, read to jurors, added: “Had I had any idea of it I would have reported it to my mother initially and then to other family members to prevent it from happening. I was shocked my brother had done this and felt bad for everybody.”

Abedi was repeatedly absent from court during his trial as the forensic evidence mounted against him, at one point claiming he felt ill because he was allergic to chlorinated water.

As the case drew to a close, Justice Jeremy Baker told the jury he had sacked his legal team and would not be giving evidence.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Duncan Penny QC said the Manchester attack was the “culmination of months of planning, experimentation and preparation by the two” brothers.

Bomber Salman Abedi pictured moments before Manchester Arena massacre

“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 Abdalraouf Abdallah, who was jailed for helping Isis fighters travel to Syria in 2016, and were seen in his company around Moss Side.

The court heard that Salman visited Abdallah in prison in January 2017 and spoke to him on the phone days later.

The Abedi brothers duped friends and associates into helping them buy chemicals to make the explosive TATP.

Some of the purchases were made using benefits claimed by their mother, who had moved back to Libya with the rest of the family during its civil war.

The brothers used 11 mobile phones in five months – some in play for as little as two hours – and used a variety of vehicles to transport components around Manchester.

Their plans were put on hold when their parents insisted they join them in Libya in April 2017 amid possible concerns about their descent into radicalisation, forcing the brothers to stockpile their stash in a second-hand Nissan Micra.

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

Salman returned to Britain alone on 18 May 2017, buying more shrapnel and finishing the bomb at a rented flat in central Manchester.

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.

Jurors were shown CCTV footage of Salman travelling to Manchester Arena and waiting more than an hour for Ariana Grande fans to flood out of the concert, before detonating his bomb at 10.31pm on 22 May 2017.

A fragment of can of the type obtained by Hashem Abedi from the scene (Greater Manchester Police )
A fragment of can of the type obtained by Hashem Abedi from the scene (Greater Manchester Police ) (Greater Manchester Police)

Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Barraclough, the senior investigating officer, said Abedi may have got “last-minute inspiration” and instruction from his brother.

“If you look at these two brothers, they are not kids caught in the headlights of something they don’t understand,” he added.

“These two men are the real deal, these are proper jihadis – you do not walk into a space like the Manchester Arena and kill yourself with an enormous bomb like that, taking 22 innocent lives with you, if you are not a proper jihadist.

“He was with his brother throughout the entire process of making this explosive and building this bomb, I believe he provided encouragement right up to the end. This was all about the sick ideology of Isis and this desire for martyrdom.”

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

The trial delayed a public inquiry into the attack, which is due to begin in June and will examine allegations that security services misinterpreted intelligence that could have prevented the bombing.

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson, of Greater Manchester Police, said almost 1,000 people were injured in the bombing and many survivors were left with “deep psychological injuries”.

“In the last few weeks Abedi absented himself from court, such was the contempt he showed for the proceedings and all those so deeply affected by this cowardly act,” he added.

A lawyer representing 11 of the bereaved families said they had “waited a long time” to see Abedi face justice.

Victoria Higgins, of Slater and Gordon, added: “I think the overwhelming emotion for most will be one of relief that he cannot hurt anyone else.

“It has been incredibly painful for them to hear, in detail, what happened to their loved ones and the calculated way in which the Abedi brothers plotted to end their lives.”

Additional reporting by PA

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