Manchester Arena bomb plotter jailed for at least 55 years

Scottish schoolgirl Eilidh McLeod was among 22 people who were killed at an Ariana Grande concert.

Manchester Arena bomb plotter Hashem Abedi has been jailed for at least 55 years.

Scottish schoolgirl Eilidh McLeod was among 22 people killed in the attack at an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017.

Abedi, 23, the younger brother of suicide bomber Salman Abedi, was found guilty of 22 murders, one count of attempted murder encompassing the survivors, and plotting to cause an explosion likely to endanger life.

Eilidh, 14, had travelled with a friend – who survived the attack – to Manchester from her home on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides.

Hashem Abedi has been jailed. <strong> Greater Manchester Police</strong>”/><span
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Hashem Abedi has been jailed. Greater Manchester Police

A statement was read on behalf of her parents at the Old Bailey on Wednesday.

They described her as a popular friend who was “wise, well beyond her years”.

They said: “She loved her life and everything in it – and it wasn’t hard to love her right back.

“Every day it’s been a struggle for us to maintain our dignity – trying to put one foot in front of the other is the hardest thing in our lives.

A statement was read on behalf of Eilidh's parents at the Old Bailey
A statement was read on behalf of Eilidh’s parents at the Old Bailey

“We still have to stop ourselves calling out her name for our dinner, that will never stop.

“Anger, fear, resentment and heartbreak is something we all have to live with.

“No parent who ever takes their child to a concert should ever have to take them home to bury them.

“We still have some good days, then we have some really bad days – it comes from absolutely nowhere and hits you in the chest.”

“The stark reality is, these were atrocious crimes. Large in scale, deadly in intent, appalling in their consequences.”

Justice Jeremy Baker

Handing out a life sentence, Justice Jeremy Baker said: “The defendant and his brother were equally culpable for the deaths and injuries caused by the explosion.

“The stark reality is, these were atrocious crimes. Large in scale, deadly in intent, appalling in their consequences.

“The despair and desolation of the bereaved families has been palpable.”

Families of the victims and survivors followed the hearing at the Old Bailey by live link from Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow.

Abedi refused to attend both days of the hearing.

Justice Baker said the 23-year-old had been brought to the court building from prison, but added that he was powerless to drag him into the courtroom.

In March, the jury accepted the prosecution’s case that Abedi had assisted and encouraged his brother, and knew of the plans to detonate a bomb in a public place to indiscriminately kill innocent people.

Abedi was in Libya at the time and became the first suspect to be successfully extradited to the UK from the country in July 2019.

Together, the Abedis spent months ordering, stockpiling and transporting the deadly materials required for their murderous act, using multiple mobile phones, addresses and runaround vehicles to craft their bomb.

The brothers joined their parents in Libya the month before the blast amid concerns the siblings were becoming radicalised.

However, Salman returned to the UK on May 18. He bought the final components needed for the bomb, rented a flat in the city centre in which to build it, and carried out reconnaissance on the arena before finally executing the plot – the chilling final moments of which were caught on CCTV.

“He (Hashem Abedi) showed that in his contempt for the court proceedings and by the end just not turning up.”

Ian Hopkins, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police

Ian Hopkins, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, described the brothers as “cowardly” and “calculating murderers” who tried to divide society.

He said: “He (Hashem Abedi) showed that in his contempt for the court proceedings and by the end just not turning up.

“But they failed to do that because actually what that atrocity did do, as painful as it was for those that lost their loved ones and those injured, it brought everybody together.

“And it showed, it showed the world that we stood together here in Manchester in our darkest hour.”