A senior Manchester Arena boss has issued a public apology to the mother of one of the 22 victims of the 2017 bombing atrocity.
Two policing experts, meanwhile, have outlined to the public inquiry into the attack a series of criticisms they have found relating to security in place on the night.
John Sharkey met with Figen Murray, Martyn Hett’s mother, on December 8, 2017, seven months after the bombing.
John Sharkey, pictured, a senior executive at SMG Europe who operated Manchester Arena misled the mother of victim Martyn Hett who died in the terrorist attack. He told Figen Murray that his firm was not responsible for the Arena’s security centre
Figen Murray, pictured, met Mr Sharkey in December 2017, seven months after the bombing. Mr Sharkey apologised today to Ms Murray for misleading her
At the meeting, arranged by the mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, Mrs Murray wanted answers to questions relating to security within the City Room at the time, the inquiry heard.
Suicide bomber Salman Abedi hid there on a mezzanine level for almost an hour in a CCTV black spot before he detonated a device he was carrying in a rucksack as crowds left an Ariana Grande concert.
The attack claimed 22 lives and left hundreds more injured.
The Arena inquiry heard on Tuesday that Mr Sharkey, who was executive vice-president (Europe) for SMG, the Arena’s operators, at the time, told Mrs Murray at the meeting the City Room ‘has nothing to do with SMG’ and was ‘sort of a no man’s land’.
She said he said the City Room was ‘not part of the Arena’ and ‘we don’t even own the Arena, we just lease it’.
Martyn Hett, pictured, was one of the 22 people murdered in the terrorist attack on the Manchester Arena
SMG, the inquiry has been told, was responsible for security in the City Room.
CCTV there was monitored by SMG personnel and Showsec staff and stewards were carrying out security in the City Room on behalf of SMG, Mr Sharkey agreed.
He told the inquiry: ‘Mrs Murray came to that meeting seeking questions and answers to the security arrangements as it was in the City Room.
‘I didn’t provide a clear answer to those questions.
‘As a result she was left hurt and left that meeting clearly with the wrong impression that had been created that I had created for her.
‘I would like to apologise for not giving a clear answer and also for the hurt that that created.
‘I certainly regret that I caused her to leave that meeting with that impression.
‘It certainly was not my intention.’
Mrs Murray, in her statement to the inquiry, said Mr Sharkey told her at the meeting that the City Room ‘has nothing to do with SMG’ and was a ‘no man’s land’ used by people as a ‘cut through’ and a ‘thoroughfare’.
The hearing is trying to determine how terrorist Salman Abedi, pictured at Victoria Station in Manchester on May 22, 2017 was able to get into the arena and spent more than an hour at the venue while carrying such a large backpack
She said he said ‘we don’t even own the building. We just lease it’.
Mr Sharkey, in his evidence, said he believed he was trying to explain what the complex ownership structure was, and where the Arena stood legally compared to the City Room.
‘There was a lot of confusion that happened after the attack in relation to the City Room and what its status was.
‘I was trying to explain that,’ he said.
He said he ‘wasn’t prepared to go into the meeting to talk about security arrangements’ and there was no legal meeting beforehand.
Mr Sharkey went on to say a ‘major miss’ from the meeting was him not ‘describing responsibilities’.
‘I didn’t give her [Mrs Murray] an answer that she should have got from that meeting,’ he said.
He said he doesn’t believe he said ‘SMG are not responsible for security in the City Room’ at the meeting, but added he had no reason to discount the contents of Mrs Murray’s statement.
Forensic experts managed to recover these metal fragments which were used by Abedi as shrapnel to increase the amount of damage caused by his bomb
He said he also ‘didn’t get to responsibilities or allocation of responsibilities’ at the meeting.
John Cooper QC, for a number of victims’ families including Mrs Murray, suggested Mr Sharkey did say SMG were not responsible for security within the City Room.
‘Did you say it because you were trying to avoid responsibility at that time?’ he asked.
Mr Sharkey said: ‘No. Absolutely not.’
Mr Cooper QC went on: ‘Were you saying anything during that meeting in an attempt to avoid responsibility for what happened on May 22, 2017?’
Martyn Hett, pictured, was one of 22 people who were killed in the terrorist attack
Mr Sharkey said: ‘No.
‘I absolutely can categorically tell you no.’
Policing experts Colonel Richard Latham and Dr David BaMaung returned to the inquiry to give further evidence on Tuesday. They are independent security experts instructed by the inquiry who have put together a series of reports.
Both said they had viewed the evidence heard since they last appeared at the inquiry in early October – and have identified 17 issues resulting from it as a result.
Col Latham said he believes SMG were in breach of a number of conditions of its public entertainment licence at the time.
Dr BaMaung said it appeared to him that SMG did not have a ‘realisation’ it should incorporate the City Room into its security plans for the Arena.
The inquiry was told there were ‘omissions’ in the written risk assessment process carried out by both SMG and Showsec, the Arena’s contracted security and stewarding providers.
Col Latham said there were not sufficient numbers of security staff on duty at the time.
Showsec, he added, didn’t have sufficient numbers of Security Industry Authority-licensed staff to check bags or ‘adequately profile the crowd’.
‘There were not appropriately qualified people to monitor the CCTV system and they were not monitoring it sufficiently proactively,’ Col Latham said.
He said SMG and Showsec didn’t liaise closely enough with British Transport Police – and a BTP officer should have been in the City Room as crowds left the concert.
Dr BaMaung said he felt the supervision of BTP station staff on the night was ‘poor’ and the number of officers on duty was ‘inadequate’.
In the absence of an experienced police constable, there was a ‘small and inexperienced team’ left at the complex, he added.
Salman Abedi, pictured, died in the suicide bombing which claimed the lives of 22 people
Overall, Dr BaMaung said BTP didn’t give the Ariana Grande concert ‘the attention it deserved’.
‘There was not consistent and proactive monitoring of CCTV during the event,’ Col Latham added.
‘There were several occasions in my opinion where Salman Abedi looked suspicious and looked like someone who required interaction with.
‘He went on to say he would have expected the mezzanine area of the City Room to have been regularly patrolled.
Both experts – who the inquiry has previously heard have criticisms of the security operation in place on the night – said they support the principles of ‘Martyn’s Law’ and the government’s ‘Protect Duty’ – planned new counter-terror security legislation.
Their evidence is expected to be heard for the remainder of the week.
This week marks the last scheduled week of chapter seven of the public inquiry, which is examining evidence relating to the security operation in place on May 22, 2017, and the Arena itself.
The independent inquiry, established by Home Secretary Priti Patel in October last year, is expected to run until spring, 2021, and is investigating the circumstances that led to the 22 people being killed in the blast.