Families of those killed in the Manchester Arena terror attack have accused the MI5 of “playing a part in the murder of our children” as the full extent of security service’ failings has been kept secret.
Caroline Curry, whose 19-year-old son Liam died in the atrocity, fought back tears as she accused the Government and local agencies of failing to acknowledge their shortcomings until they were exposed by the public inquiry, led by Sir John Saunders.
In the third and final volume of his report published today, Sir John confirmed there was a “significant” missed opportunity by MI5 to act on intelligence that could have prevented Salman Abedi carrying out the 2017 attack.
It comes after the emergency services – police, fire and ambulance – apologised for a litany of failures in their response last year.
“All we as families have asked for from day one is the truth,” said Mrs Curry.
“Acknowledgment of failures, and the determination that those failures are fixed so that next – and there will be a next time – there won’t be as many families going through the utter heartbreak we’ve had to endure for the last five years, nine months, one week and one day.
“We didn’t get that acknowledgement from anyone other than GMFRS [Greater Manchester Fire Service] until the chairman’s reports were published – shame on you all.”
Speaking alongside the parents of Chloe Rutherford, Liam’s 17-year-old girlfriend who also died in the 2017 attack, Mrs Curry added: “Forgiveness will never be an option for such evil intentions and those that played any part in the murder of our children will never, ever get forgiveness.
“Form top to bottom, MI5 to the associates of the attacker, we will always believe that you all played a part in the murder of our children.
“We will spend the rest of our lives trying to protect our boys, because as we’ve found out through this process, once you leave the safety of your home, you are on your own.”
Responding to the criticism, MI5 Director General Ken McCallum said he is “profoundly sorry that MI5 did not prevent the attack”, adding: “I deeply regret that such intelligence was not obtained.”
In his report, Sir John also apologised to bereaved families because much of the evidence about MI5’s failings were revealed in “closed” sessions and will not be made public.
“I have not been able to answer all of the questions that they wanted answered and I am aware that in my open report on Volume 3 I have raised more questions in their mind,” he said.
“I am sorry, but that was inevitable. I did ask the questions. I did get answers. But for the reasons I have given I have not been able to report publicly what those answers were.”
A “closed” version of Sir John’s report into whether the Arena attack could have been prevented will be shared with relevant agencies including the Government.
Sir John said that while he will “monitor” whether the recommendations from his “open” report are followed through, he will leave scrutiny of “closed” recommendations to the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.
“They are in the best position to take an overall view and ensure that steps are taken to make improvements,” he said.
However, it means Arena families may never be able to scrutinise whether failures have been addressed themselves.
Speaking today on behalf of 11 families affected by the tragedy, Richard Scorer, principal lawyer at law firm Slater and Gordon, said: “The failures exposed in this report are unacceptable.
“The public are entitled to expect that information of national security importance will be acted on speedily, and – crucially – that the system will ensure that this happens. It MUST do so in the future.
“We note that Sir John will be making recommendations in his closed report.
“We trust that these recommendations will be acted on, and that Sir John will be vigilant in monitoring their implementation.”
In a statement issued by law firm Broudie Jackson Canter, Andrew Roussos, whose eight-year-old daughter Saffie-Rose was killed, said: “Our beautiful little girl lost her life because of the failings of the security services and today’s report acknowledges that MI5 might have prevented the bombing.
“We all heard the evidence and knew there were failings, but hearing how this tragedy might have been avoided is devastating for us all.
“This was a cataclysmic failure, and it is clear from all of the evidence we have heard about Abedi that there were many opportunities for the security services to have ensured the bombing never happened.
“In my view the fact that MI5 failed to stop him despite all of the red flags available demonstrates they are not fit to keep us safe and therefore not fit for purpose.”
Responding to the report, security minister Tom Tugendhat said the Government is “wholly committed” to learning lessons from the tragedy.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman added: “Today is a difficult day. On 22 May 2017, an act of pure evil took the lives of 22 people at Manchester Arena. My thoughts are with their loved ones and all those who had their lives changed forever.
“Over the past three years, the Manchester Arena Inquiry has carefully analysed critical evidence to ensure vital lessons are learned. I am grateful to Sir John Saunders and his team for their thorough and considered approach.
“I am committed to working with MI5, policing and partners to study the recommendations. Together we will do everything possible to prevent a repeat of this horrifying attack.”