Brother of Manchester Arena bomber found guilty of murder

Hashem Abedi, 22, has been found guilty of murder over the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing that killed 22 people.

He has also convicted of one count of attempted murder and one count of conspiring with suicide bomber Salman Abedi, his brother, to cause explosions.

Families of some of the victims in court two of the Old Bailey sobbed as the foreman returned the unanimous verdict after less than five hours of deliberations.

The senior investigating officer said Hashem was "every bit as responsible" as his older brother – and may have been the senior figure in the plot, with intentions for further bloodshed around the world – even though he was in Libya at the time of the deadly explosion.

Hashem Abedi was not present at the conclusion of his seven-week trial as he continued to attempt to evade responsibility for the carnage of May 22, 2017.

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Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Barraclough said: "If you look at these two brothers, they are not kids caught in the headlights of something they don't understand.

"These two men are the real deal, these are proper jihadis – you do not walk into a space like the Manchester Arena and kill yourself with an enormous bomb like that, taking 22 innocent lives with you, if you are not a proper jihadist.

"He was with his brother throughout the entire process of making this explosive and building this bomb, I believe he provided encouragement right up to the end.

"This was all about the sick ideology of Islamic State and this desire for martyrdom."

And he said he was certain that Hashem took a final four-minute phone call from Salman on the evening the bomb went off.

Mr Barraclough, who was assigned to the case within an hour of the attack, said: "At that point he (Salman) is getting that last-minute inspiration (from Hashem) – that last-minute advice – and he's telling him what he's about to do.

"These two brothers are literally hand in glove in this process."

Prosecutor Duncan Penny QC had said that Hashem was "just as guilty" as his brother of the attack after an Ariana Grande concert which killed 22 men, women and children aged between eight and 51.

The court heard how from January 2017, the brothers set about buying nuts and screws for shrapnel and ordering chemicals from Amazon to make the homemade TATP explosives.

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Meanwhile, Salman visited convicted Islamic State recruiter Abdulraouf Abdallah in prison and even spoke to him on a mobile phone as the plot took shape.

Their plans were briefly scuppered when their parents insisted they join them in Libya in April 2017 amid possible concerns about their descent into radicalisation, police said, forcing the brothers to stockpile their stash in a second-hand Nissan Micra, bought for £250 the day before they left the UK.

Returning alone, Salman bought a rucksack, more shrapnel, constructed his bomb in a rented flat in central Manchester, and carried out reconnaissance missions.

Jurors were shown chilling CCTV footage of Salman travelling to the foyer of the Arena, before detonating his bomb at 10.31pm on May 22, just as crowds left the venue.

Afterwards, Greater Manchester Police found Hashem's fingerprints at key addresses and in the Micra, which still contained traces of explosives.

He was arrested in Libya the next day and extradited last summer.

Mr Penny said Hashem was "at times chauffeur, at times quartermaster, at times electrical technician" in the plot, before fleeing to his parents' home in Libya a month before the blast.

Following his arrest, Hashem, who declined to give evidence, had tried to "point the finger of responsibility" at his dead brother in a police statement.

But Mr Penny said: "At its most fundamental level, it was an attempt to evade responsibility for his own culpability, for the cruel and cowardly carnage that took place at the Arena that night."

The case saw proceedings broadcast simultaneously to courtrooms across the country, allowing victims' families to hear the evidence in real time.

A handful were present in the Old Bailey, where they sat metres away from the brother of the bomber.

Lawyer Victoria Higgins, of Slater and Gordon, which represented 11 of the bereaved families, said: "Families have waited a long time to see Hashem Abedi face justice for his crimes and I think the overwhelming emotion for most will be one of relief that he cannot hurt anyone else.

"It has been incredibly painful for them to hear, in detail, what happened to their loved ones and the calculated way in which the Abedi brothers plotted to end their lives."

Abedi repeatedly delayed his trial because he claimed he felt unwell, it can now be reported.

On the second day of his trial, his lawyers even called a halt to proceedings to raise his demands for bottled water, saying he was refusing to drink tap water at Belmarsh Prison, causing him to become severely dehydrated.

Weeks later, jurors were sent home barely a minute into their working day after being told that the defendant was "feeling unwell".

A public inquiry into the bombing is due to begin in June.

Welcoming the verdict, Mr Barraclough said Abedi was driven by "sick ideology" and would not have stopped his murderous activities had he not been brought to justice.

"To get Hashem Abedi back from Libya to stand trial and then be found guilty by a jury means an enormous amount to us," he said, adding that he had shown "not one jot of emotion" or remorse throughout the trial.

"And for those families and survivors who followed this process, I hope that has at least given them the answers to some of the questions they were asking before."

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