Manchester Arena bomb inquests 'at least a year away'

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image captionTwenty-two people were killed in the attack

Families of the 22 people killed in the Manchester Arena suicide bombing will have to wait at least another year before inquests are held.

Coroner Sir John Saunders said it would be another 12 months before the inquests would be held and the "answers" the families want were given.

The High Court judge spoke at a pre-inquest review attended by about 20 members of the victims' families.

A minute's silence was held at the start of the 90-minute hearing.

The names of the 22 victims were read out during the hearing at Manchester Town Hall, which dealt mainly with administrative matters.

The inquests have been delayed as they cannot be held before the conclusion of any criminal investigation and possible trial of any suspects.

Salman Abedi, 22, from Manchester, whose family settled in the UK from Libya, detonated his device at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May 2017.

His attack left 22 dead and hundreds injured.

But the hearing was told the investigation was still "live" and the UK was trying to extradite the bomber's brother, Hashem Abedi, from custody in Libya where he is being held.

Jeremy Johnson QC, representing Greater Manchester Police, said detectives were still carrying out a "very full and thorough murder investigation" which was "far from concluded".

He said the inquiry had so far obtained 2,687 witness statements and 14,555 exhibits including many telephones, and that 23 people had been arrested.

Progress urged

But Anna Morris, representing the family of the youngest victim, eight-year-old Saffie-Rose Roussos, told the hearing despite the scale of the police investigation there was still no "timetable" for the extradition of Hashem Abedi.

She said: "We very much urge meaningful coronial progress given we are 18 months after the tragedy."

Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquests, submitted that the oral hearings should not commence until after any criminal proceedings were complete.

He said the scope of the inquests may cover whether the attack could have been prevented by the authorities, the build-up to the bombing, the incident itself, the response of the emergency services and security arrangements within and outside the Manchester Arena.

John Cooper QC, representing families of 10 victims, suggested that the private security arrangements of Ariane Grande on the night could also be examined.

The inquests were adjourned until the next pre-inquest review in February.

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