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Manchester Arena Inquiry: Security 'did not approach bomber over racism fears'

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image copyrightManchester Arena Inquiry
image captionKyle Lawler worked at Showsec events for £4.24 per hour

A security guard had a "bad feeling" about suicide bomber Salman Abedi but did not approach him for fear of being branded a racist, an inquiry has heard.

Kyle Lawler, who was 18 at the time of the Manchester Arena attack, was standing 10 or 15ft away from Abedi.

He later told police he was conflicted because he thought something was wrong but could not put his finger on it.

About five minutes later, at 22:31 BST on 22 May 2017, Abedi detonated a bomb packed with 3,000 nuts and bolts.

Abedi, 22, dressed all in black and carrying a large rucksack, had been reported to security by a member of the public at 22:15.

Around eight minutes before the bombing, Showsec steward Mohammed Ali Agha alerted Mr Lawler to the report and both began observing Abedi.

In his statement prepared for the inquiry, Mr Lawler said: "I just had a bad feeling about him but did not have anything to justify that."

The witness added that Abedi was "fidgety and sweating".

image copyrightFamily handouts
image captionTop row (left to right): Alison Howe, Martyn Hett, Lisa Lees, Courtney Boyle, Eilidh MacLeod, Elaine McIver, Georgina Callander, Jane Tweddle - Middle row (left to right): John Atkinson, Kelly Brewster, Liam Curry, Chloe Rutherford, Marcin Klis, Angelika Klis, Megan Hurley, Michelle Kiss - Bottom row (left to right): Nell Jones, Olivia Campbell-Hardy, Philip Tron, Saffie-Rose Roussos, Sorrel Leczkowski, Wendy Fawell

Mr Lawler said he attempted to use his radio to alert the security control room but claimed he could not get through due to radio traffic.

He then left the arena and took up his position outside the City Room and made no further attempt to raise the alarm.

Mr Lawler agreed he simply "gave up" trying to use the radio and just got on with his job.

In his prepared statement to the inquiry, the Showsec security guard also said: "I felt unsure about what to do.

"It's very difficult to define a terrorist. For all I knew he might well be an innocent Asian male.

"I did not want people to think I am stereotyping him because of his race.

"I was scared of being wrong and being branded a racist if I got it wrong and would have got into trouble. It made me hesitant.

"I wanted to get it right and not mess it up by over-reacting or judging someone by their race."

Mr Lawler agreed that on five separate occasions after the bombing, he made statements, verbally or in writing, where he "deliberately shortened" the time between him leaving the City Room to the bomb going off, "so no one would say, why didn't you do something?" the inquiry was told.

He added he "had a guilty feeling, I had a lot of blame on myself".

The public inquiry continues.

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