Posted on October 28, 2020

Manchester Arena Inquiry: Guard Did Not Raise Alarm About Bomber Because He Was ‘Scared of Being Branded Racist’

Duncan Gardham, Sky News, October 27, 2020

A security guard who was working on the night of the Manchester Arena attack has told an inquiry he did not raise the alarm about Salman Abedi because he was scared of being “branded a racist”.

Kyle Lawler, then an 18-year-old steward, said he had received training in what to look out for but was “naive” about the possibility of a terrorist incident and believed it “won’t happen to me”.

He failed to alert his control room about bomber Abedi, who was hiding in an area at the back of the City Room foyer, after being told about Abedi six minutes before the explosion.

It was the last chance to stop the audience at the Ariana Grande concert leaving the arena before the blast in May 2017, which killed 22 people.

Mr Lawler told the inquiry Abedi was sitting among a “group of white people” and described his behaviour as “slightly nervous”.

Mr Lawler’s earlier statement was read out in the inquiry, which said: “I was scared of being wrong and being branded a ‘racist’ – if I got it wrong I would have got into trouble. It made me hesitant on what to do by overreacting or judging someone by their race.”

Mr Lawler agreed that this was the reason he did not immediately raise any alarm about Abedi.

He also told the inquiry he tried to call his bosses on his radio but could not get through.

Paul Greaney, QC for the inquiry, asked: “When you went to work, were you aware you had to be alert to the material risk of terrorist attack?”

Mr Lawler said: “I think I was quite naive at the time, one of those things where, yes it was a possibility, but it won’t happen to me.

“You see it on the news and it is always not on your doorstep.”

Mr Lawler said he had been working for Showsec – the security contractors at the arena – since leaving school at 16, earning £4.24 an hour, but he had never had to deal with a suspicious person before that evening.

He had heard in briefings that the threat of a terrorist attack was “severe”, meaning an attack was “highly likely”, adding: “The news was heavily reporting on it as well and I went on the ‘gov’ website to gain some knowledge of what this meant.”

Mr Lawler had passed his Security Industry Association training four months before the attack and he was a designated radio holder.

“I didn’t actively go seeking for the more responsibility but Showsec knew that I was always willing to do above and beyond,” he told the inquiry.

Mr Lawler accepted that he had been trained in how to spot similar behaviour to that exhibited by Abedi.

A video called Eyes Wide Open was played, which told stewards what to look out for, and highlighted the threat to concert venues.

It included a case study in which a suspect had been coming in and out and hanging around at a venue for prolonged period.