BTP officers went for a kebab on two-hour break before Manchester Arena attack

17 June 2021, 16:31 | Updated: 17 June 2021, 16:32

BTP officers were not patrolling when the attack took place, an inquiry heard
BTP officers were not patrolling when the attack took place, an inquiry heard. Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

Two British Transport Police (BTP) officers who could have been patrolling in the build-up to the Manchester Arena attack instead drove to pick up a kebab on a two-hour break, an inquiry heard.

Sir John Saunders, who chaired the public inquiry into the attack, said there were "significant failures" by five BTP officers on 22 May 2017.

Salman Abedi, who had been inspired by Isis, detonated his homemade explosive and killed himself and 22 innocent people at an Ariana Grande concert.

The five officers on duty had been told to make sure at least one was in the City Room - where the attack would take place - at the arena when the concert ended.

But they did not follow orders, and a BTP officer may have been able to challenge Abedi when a member of the public passed his concerns to stewards about half an hour before the explosion.

Read more: Manchester Arena bombing: Security failings led to 'missed opportunities' to save lives

The inquiry heard officers generally "put their feet up" until a concert at the arena was over.

Just before half 7 - three hours before the attack - PC Jessica Bullough and a PCSO colleague drove five miles from Victoria Station to south Manchester to get a kebab.

How two brothers spent four months planning Manchester Arena bombing

They were off duty for two hours and nine minutes, and Sir John's report said BTP officers "took breaks substantially and unjustifiably in excess of what they were permitted to".

Ultimately, when Abedi arrived at the City Room, dressed in black and nearly bent double as he hauled his rucksack bomb, no officers were on patrol.

The officers were praised for their response after the blast, as they ran to the City Room foyer to help the injured.

The BTP was criticised for failing to instil the "necessary alertness" in officers, as well as for a lack of clear leadership and supervision.

BTP Chief Constable Lucy D'Orsi said in a statement: "I would like to reassure everyone that British Transport Police, as you would expect, has been reviewing procedures, operational planning and training since this dreadful attack took place in 2017.

"We will never forget that 22 people tragically lost their lives following the truly evil actions of the attacker and many received life-changing injuries."

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