The survivors of the Manchester Arena attack that killed 22 people fear they will not be designated as ‘core participants’ at the public inquiry into the bombing, it has been claimed.
A video-link hearing was today told that key evidence from those who survived the attack on May 22 2017, was being ignored by the public inquiry.
The hearing was told that many survivors, who had attended the arena to watch American singer Ariana Grande, were ‘living witnesses’ to the suicide bomb attack but have not been approached to appear at the inquiry.
One young survivor was allegedly covered with a sheet and left for dead, and another spent three and a half hours waiting for emergency services to rescue her while bleeding from her injuries.
Survivors of the attack stand outside the Manchester Arena on May 22 2017 after the terror attack
An off-duty counter-terrorism police officer rang a colleague to tell them the attacker was not armed which might have led to ‘swifter entry by emergency services,’ a hearing was told.
Brenda Campbell QC, representing the survivors, said: ‘No one, but no one reached out to the survivors to determine the value of their evidence and to put the evidence from agencies and professionals into context.
‘Given the importance and value of what they can bring, it should not be left to individual survivors to ask if they can make a contribution.’
The survivors are now seeking to appear as ‘core participants’ in the inquiry, which has been delayed until September due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far claimed the lives of 6,159 people, with over 55,000 cases having been confirmed as of today.
The 22 victims of the terror attack during the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena in May 2017. (top row left to right) Off-duty police officer Elaine McIver, 43, Saffie Roussos, 8, Sorrell Leczkowski, 14, Eilidh MacLeod, 14, (second row left to right) Nell Jones, 14, Olivia Campbell-Hardy, 15, Megan Hurley, 15, Georgina Callander, 18, (third row left to right), Chloe Rutherford,17, Liam Curry, 19, Courtney Boyle, 19, and Philip Tron, 32, (fourth row left to right) John Atkinson, 26, Martyn Hett, 29, Kelly Brewster, 32, Angelika Klis, 39, (fifth row left to right) Marcin Klis, 42, Michelle Kiss, 45, Alison Howe, 45, and Lisa Lees, 43 (fifth row left to right) Wendy Fawell, 50 and Jane Tweddle, 51
Emergency service workers are seen helping members of the public after the attack in 2017
Some bereaved families of those killed in the Manchester Arena attack say the survivors should be excluded from ‘core participation’ in the public inquiry because they might ‘dilute the focus’.
This is while inquiry lawyers say they may be called as witnesses but should not be able to ask questions.
Holding the inquiry without their participation would be an ‘afront to the confidence of the public,’ Ms Campbell told the hearing.
The survivors include doctors, retired police officers and members of the public who ‘plugged a gap in the state response as they waited hours to be treated,’ she said.
Some survivors remained in hospital for months, many were discharged to round the clock care and others were ‘learning to cope in world they never previously conceived of.’
‘Those whose lives have been so catastrophically affected should be given a voice and their evidence considered as fulfilling a vital public function,’ Ms Campbell added.
The hearing was told that 65 people were seriously injured and another 28 very seriously injured in the suicide bomb attack in the City Room foyer in May 2017.
‘The survivors are the living witnesses,’ Ms Campell added. ‘They were in the main in the City Room before during and after the attack and mercifully they have lived to tell the tale.’
The survivors include a father who was left in a wheelchair and another who was blinded in one eye.
Hashem Abedi, pictured, younger brother of Manchester Arena bomber Salman, was convicted of 22 counts of murder relating to the 2017 attack
They only realised they might ‘have a voice’ in the public inquiry when talking to bereaved families at the trial of Hashem Abedi, the brother of the bomber.
Ms Campbell said an application to be considered as ‘core participants’ was of the ‘utmost significance’ to the survivors.
‘The survivors have lived, and continue to live, with consequences of the attack on a minute by minute basis.
‘Many are marked by disability, scars and constant pain and even to this day face medical procedures and on-going surgery’.
Ms Campbell added that while some physical traumas may have healed, it continues to affect the mental health of many.
‘For all the traumatic questions remain – why did this happen, how was it allowed to happen, what if things had been different?
‘The importance of participating and having a voice in a process that seeks to answer some of those questions cannot be overstated.’
However, several bereaved families have objected to the designation of survivors as core participants fearing they may lengthen the inquiry.
Duncan Atkinson QC, representing six of the 22 bereaved families, said: ‘It is clear that the real risk is a dilution in the focus of this inquiry from those who ought to be at the centre, namely those who lost their lives at the arena.
‘It is the clear, definite and justified focus of this inquiry and should remain so.’
However, Pete Wetherby QC, representing another seven families said that what happened to those who survived was ‘likely to be of relevance.’
‘Efficacy cannot be judged by the experience of the deceased only,’ he added.
The chairman of the inquiry, Sir John Saunders, is likely to give his judgment next week.