Parents of the youngest Manchester Arena terror attack victim ask why bomber wasn’t stopped

The parents of the youngest victim of the Manchester Arena terror attack say ‘questions need to be answered’ about why bomber Salman Abedi wasn’t prevented from carrying out the atrocity.

Saffie-Rose Roussos, eight, was one of 22 people who were killed when Salman Abedi detonated a suicide bomb at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017. A BBC Panorama documentary, due to air tonight (Monday), follows Saffie’s parents Andrew and Lisa as they return to Manchester for the public inquiry and shows them speaking with security experts about the attack.

Lord David Anderson QC, who in 2017 carried out an independent review of M15 and counter-terror policing in the wake of that year’s terror attacks in Manchester and London, tells Panorama: “We spend three billion pounds a year in this country on counter- terrorism and that night it didn’t work.”

Readmore: It took police years to admit Arena bomb failings – and there are still big questions for GMP

During the inquiry it emerged that Abedi had been assessed by MI5 in 2014, but that after a short investigation his file had been closed. Abedi had become close to Abdalraouf Abdallah, a suspected man, then convicted and jailed for facilitating the movement of money and fighters to Syria. After MI5 closed their file on Abedi, he visited Abdallah in prison.

Police had also confiscated Abdallah’s phone on which there were 1,300 messages between the two, although Abedi was not identified as having been in communication with Abdallah until the year after the attack.

Saffie’s parents Lisa and Andrew

Nick Aldworth, former UK Counter Terrorism National Co-ordinator, who said he found it ‘inexplicable’ the relationship between Abedi and Abdallah wasn’t followed up.

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Mr Aldworth said: “You have someone here [Abedi] who is very obviously espousing extremist views, is talking to a person under investigation and subsequently convicted for a terrorist offence, but there is no follow up. I don’t know what the work load was in the north-west at the time but I imagine it was very high.

“However, the bit that I struggle with is, this is not difficult intelligence to exploit and if you are investigating terrorists, we want to investigate their networks. I find that inexplicable.”

Salman Abedi killed himself and 22 others when he detonated a bomb in his backpack in the foyer of Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017

After meeting with the two security experts Andrew Roussos says: “When you go to one of our prisons in this country and visit the person that [Abedi] did on a number of occasions, plus making phone calls to this person that should have been a trigger for M15. Questions need to be answered… why do we keep losing our loved ones?”

Following the bombing Andrew and wife Lisa who was badly injured in the attack, needing nine operations, and their son Xander, never returned to their home in Leyland, Lancs. Andrew said: “Me and Lisa couldn’t face what we had as a family. Once Lisa left hospital. I said, ‘Why don’t we just move away?'”

Lisa and Andrew’s new home in Dorset includes a bedroom for Saffie

Their new home in Dorset includes a bedroom for Saffie. In the documentary, Lisa can be seen opens a box containing photos of Saffie and other treasured memories of her daughter de ella, for the first time since the move de ella.

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She says: “Everything in this room is what she knew, that she’d seen. That’s what we wanted. We didn’t want anything changing. She’s here with me and I wouldn’t want her anywhere else.

As part of the documentary a forensic expert retrieved data from Saffie’s phone, which was badly damaged in the explosion, including the last selfies she took on her way to the concert. Saffie’s mum Lisa said: “On the actual night I set out her clothes de ella. I got her Ariana Grande t-shirt. She could n’t believe it, she was so excited, so happy.”

For three years, they had believed that their daughter had been killed instantly in the explosion. But during the inquiry they learn she was conscious and had lived for more than an hour following the blast. Expert witnesses are divided over whether her injuries to her were survivable

Nicola Brook, the Roussos family solicitor says: “Saffie’s main injuries were to her legs, particularly the backs of her knees and
there was obviously a lot of bleeding from those injuries… and if that bleeding is allowed to continue, eventually you run out of blood and the body will shut down.

“The people around Saffie, many of them did their best in appalling circumstances, but the basic medical techniques that could and should have been used, weren’t.”

Saffie Rose Roussos

Lisa says: “Could she have survived? Couldn’t she? If she could have survived, then you think about the care she was given or the lack of it. So that just throws you into turmoil and I know that if she had been given that chance she would still be here, I really do.”

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Andrew says: “Finding out exactly what happened is hard to take because you don’t want anyone to suffer, never mind your child. It does make you very angry and gets you very upset to know that that little girl did everything she could to keep herself going and the system failed her, and I want to get to the bottom of that.”

North-West Ambulance Service told the inquiry that lessons have been learned, but it believes that there were ‘no inadequacies’ in its response which contributed to Saffie’s death. Greater Manchester Police and the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service have accepted failings in their overall response on the night, while Counter Terrorism Policing North West and MI5 have both told the inquiry they are sorry the attack was not stopped.

During a visit to the Glade of Light Memorial in Manchester dedicated to the Manchester Arena attack victims, the family bury a time capsule for Saffie. Lisa says: “We’ll never be who we were, we’ll never have what we had, but Saffie is always with us and we’ll take her with us forever.”

The inquiry’s conclusions are expected to be published later this year.

Manchester Arena Bombing: Saffie’s Story will air on BBC ONE on Monday March, 7 at 8pm and will be available on iPlayer.

Read more about the Arena inquiry: Bereaved families praised for ‘extraordinary dignity’ as scheduled evidence ends at Manchester Arena inquiry

Also read: MI5 ‘struggling to cope’ with workload in years before Manchester Arena bombing

Click here for the latest headlines from the Manchester Evening News

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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