Mass murderer Salman Abedi had ‘talked about killing people in a public space’ for years before he detonated a bomb at Manchester Arena, the public inquiry into the atrocity heard.
But, the inquiry heard, Abedi spoke about it ‘so often’ that it wasn’t ‘taken seriously’ and dismissed as ‘hearsay’ by those who knew him.
A prison officer, who cannot be named for legal reasons, gave evidence on Tuesday (February 15).
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‘PO1’, as he was referred to, told of a conversation he had with convicted terrorist recruiter Abdalraouf Abdallah in his prison cell on December 1 last year, days after Abdallah had given evidence to the inquiry.
Chairman Sir John Saunders asked Abdallah during the hearing in November if he had any suspicions Abedi could become a suicide bomber.
Abdallah told the inquiry: “No, no way. None of my friends, anyone, had any idea what’s going on in Salman’s head.”
He said he heard the news on the radio at the time and called a friend from prison through tears.
Abedi, Abdallah said, had ‘never spoken about something like that’.
The prison officer said Abdallah – who he called ‘Abs’ – ‘called him over for a chat’ on December 1 and through his body language, he ‘seemed bothered about something’.
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PO1 said: “He was sat in his cell just watching TV.
“I went in and sat on his bed. I said ‘right Abdul, what’s on your mind?’.”
The officer said Abdallah told him he was ‘shocked’ to find out that ‘one of his boys’ had committed the Arena attack.
PO1 said Abdallah didn’t refer to Abedi by name, but said that over a period of years, the person had ‘spoken about causing harm to others’.
But, he added, he spoke about it ‘so often’ that it had ‘not been taken seriously’.
“People thought it was heard,” PO1 told the inquiry.
The officer reported the conversation through formal prison channels, the inquiry heard.
He wrote: “I [Abdallah] seen me and called me over for a chat, stating that he is feeling really low that one of his close boys on the out has actually committed the terror attack in Manchester and states that when he last spoke to him ages ago, that he did not think he would go through with it and it was just hearsay.”
In his subsequent statement to police, PO1 said that ‘Abs said for years the lad had talked about killing people in a public space’.
Abdallah, said PO1, didn’t specify whether he had been told that directly from Abedi or through others.
The prison officer claimed Abdallah – a friend of Abedi’s from Moss Side – hadn’t spoken about him before he was called to give evidence at the inquiry.
As a result, PO1 said he believed Abdallah did not know who was involved in the Manchester attack – the reason why he reported the conversation because of the ‘close boys’ comment.
He said Abdallah – who denied any knowledge of the bombing in his evidence – went on to say that if he had known about the Arena attack beforehand, he ‘would have done everything he could have done to talk him out of doing it’.
The Arena bombing after an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017 claimed 22 lives and left hundreds more people injured.
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