As the five-year anniversary of one of the UK’s deadliest terrorist attacks approaches, a powerful ITV special explores the Manchester bombing as the truth of what happened is finally emerging.
On 22 May 2017, thousands of people flocked to the Manchester Arena ahead of pop star Ariana Grande’s sold-out concert.
The atmosphere had been fizzing with excitement as fans sang and danced along with their musical idol. But just moments after Grande finished her final song, a suicide bomber detonated an explosion, killing 22 concertgoers and injuring 1,017 more.
The Manchester Bombing shocked the nation to its core. It is one of the deadliest terrorist attacks and the first suicide bombing in the UK since the 7/7 London bus bombings in 2005.
The story reverberated around the world as the city of Manchester and fans across the world tried to come to terms with the atrocity. Terrorist group ISIS claimed responsibility for the act, which was later found to have been undertaken by 22-year-old Manchester resident Salman Abedi.
But five years later, the truth about what really happened at the Manchester Arena is still emerging.
In the first episode of ITV’s Worlds Collide: The Manchester Arena explores the events that led to Salman Abedi’s radicalisation and the opportunities that were missed to stop his plans.
The film documents how intelligence agencies missed multiple links between Abedi and terrorist activity. M15 had previously flagged him as a threat and he was well known to be “on the edges of bad stuff that was going on” as part of groups in south Manchester with ties to ISIS.
Interview footage from the Manchester Arena Enquiry hearings showed members of the British Transport Police (BTP) and Manchester Arena stewards who encountered Abedi moments before he detonated the bomb being quizzed on whether they could have done more to prevent the attack.
“If he had walked past me, I probably would have asked him what was in his backpack,” one BTP officer, who had ignored orders to be visible and took a two-hour break as Abedi boarded the train towards the arena, admitted.
An arena steward told the inquiry that he had encountered Abedi just minutes before the attack and found him “suspicious”, but was “scared of being wrong and being branded a racist”.
But the film’s true focus is the victims. Fans that had attended the concert spoke of their excitement. “Everything felt safe and normal,” shared one survivor. “We were just so excited to get in. I never thought anything bad was going to happen.”
“There was nothing, then just screams,” Paul Swaine, a survivor of the bombing, tells the camera of the moment the attack happened. Swaine had attended the concert with his friend Martyn Hett, who sadly died in the arena.
“Martyn would make you feel like you were the only person in the room. He cared, he looked after people, he was going to be a friend for life,” he recalled.
Harrowing footage of inside the venue and on the streets paints a chilling picture of the horror and chaos of the attack in real-time. Sirens wail and screams echo from the areas surrounding the venue. But despite this, hours after the attack, many of those injured were still awaiting medical attention.
“It was like everyone was dead,” one survivor tells of the lack of police and emergency services presence.
But the emotional testimonies provide an important dedication to those who lost their lives and those who are still trying to rebuild them.
From the failings of those who were meant to protect, to the loss of so many young lives, to the lasting trauma of the people that witnessed it first-hand, it’s clear that the Manchester Arena bombing will forever be remembered as an event that changed the nation forever.
Part One of Worlds Collide: The Manchester Bombing airs tonight on ITV at 9pm. Part Two continues on ITV on 14 April at 9pm.