Five key moments: How the emergency response to the arena bombing unravelled
Our report from today's inquiry findings
Dear Millers — the second report from the public inquiry into the Manchester Arena bombing came out this afternoon. The Mill’s Jack Dulhanty started reading it at 8am this morning under embargo conditions along with other journalists, and that’s our main story in today’s edition. Jack has written a report that focuses on five key moments in which things went badly wrong in the emergency service response.
We also have a short message from Dani Cole, who is raising money to pay for a headstone for Tony Doran, the man she wrote about recently in her beautiful long read about people who die alone, without family members or friends to mark their passing, and some great recommendations for the weekend ahead.
As always, our Thursday editions are for Mill members only, including the 60 new ones we’ve picked up since Joshi’s editor’s note on Sunday about a big landmark in our young life. As always, the top of the email is readable by regular Millers too, in the hope that you’ll get some value from it and join up as a member to get all our journalism. We’re currently on 1,569 members — help us get to 1,600 this month.
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Your Mill briefing
Clubbing impresario Sacha Lord announced that he has joined the Labour Party yesterday. “This is a move I've wanted to make for a long time,” he tweeted, while clarifying in a press release that he doesn’t want to become an MP. Lord, who runs Parklife festival and The Warehouse Project club night franchise, is good friends with Andy Burnham and also serves as his Night Time Economy Advisor. We’ve speculated several times in this newsletter that Lord seems to be positioning himself to succeed Burnham as mayor of Greater Manchester (remember his pint-buying spree at pubs across GM?), and he joins Labour not long after Gary Neville became a member. “Will it be a Gary Neville / Sacha Lord run-off for next Manchester mayor when Burnham decides to step down?!” asks Hannah Al-Othman from the Sunday Times. Throw Salford’s elected mayor Paul Dennett into the mix and we might have a competitive and very male contest once Burnham moves on. When might that be? One plugged-in source thinks Burnham is weighing up a return to Westminster at the next general election, which has to take place before January 2025. Know something about Sacha Lord? Drop email@example.com an email.
"We don't just disappear off with any sort of crackpot-type information." That's what Chief Constable Stephen Watson told BBC Radio Manchester, defending GMP's decision to spend a week searching for the remains of Moors Murder victim Keith Bennett after an amateur investigator claimed to have found the 12-year-old's jaw bone on Saddleworth Moor. Russell Edwards, who also claims to have identified Jack the Ripper, said he was sure he had found Bennett's remains. At the time he told The Mill “the geological findings say that there's human bones in this site", and that the police would have a difficult time explaining how they failed to find anything when people see what Edwards found. Alas, the pictures Edwards says he took of the remains still haven't been shared with the public, and Watson described his supposed discovery as "an unwelcome distraction because it proved not to have any validity".
We enjoyed this Reddit thread about Manchester’s most transient areas — the ones where the highest proportion of people were living at a different address a year ago. It was started by a poster who wanted to know where the newcomers to Manchester are settling and thought this map (below) might offer a clue (“I can never find any data on whether there really are lots of people from up from London / SE or if it's just one of those ‘bloke down the pub said’ things” they wrote). But as many people pointed out, it probably just shows us which areas have more students and renters rather than homeowners. Still, it’s interesting — particularly some of the stark contrasts like the border between gentrified Ancoats/New Islington and Beswick/Ardwick. Check the percentage for your area on the ONS website.
Tony Redmond OBE, the founder of frontline medical charity UK-Med, has completed his final aid assignment in Ukraine ahead of his retirement from the charity. Redmond, who is a professor at the University of Manchester and began his career at Wythenshawe Hospital, has delivered aid in warzones and scenes of humanitarian crisis all over the world, and his charity currently has 100 clinicians working across Ukraine. You can listen to our interview with him on our podcast here.
The BBC has announced it will be reducing its physical footprint in Salford’s MediaCity. Citing the rise in hybrid working and its own net-zero commitments, the broadcaster is set to leave Bridge House — a 100,000 sq ft office space on the quays — by Spring 2024. Remaining workers will be moved to the BBC's other buildings in Media City: Quay House and Dock House.
Getting a headstone for Tony
By Dani Cole
During a recent lunch with a friend, I mentioned I’d spent the week looking into getting a headstone for Tony Doran. You might remember Tony, whose lonely funeral I covered in a piece on The Mill recently.
In that story, I wrote how lots of people who are buried in the public section of Southern Cemetery have no headstones to mark who they were. You might also recall that text I got from Dan, Tony’s support worker: "Tony was on benefits, so I don't think he will get a headstone, Dani."
So in the past few weeks, I have been trying to work out how to get him one.
There are a few things to consider when it comes to the business of death that I hadn’t thought about before. I understand, now, why my father had sent me a photograph of my granddad’s headstone in a rainy Presbyterian churchyard in Northern Ireland a few years ago. “How lovely!” I remember texting him.
For example, did I want a flat headstone or one that was kerbed? It was important to think about the material, too — Southern Cemetery only permits natural stone or granite headstones. And as with everything, I needed to think about the cost. Cheap headstones start at £400.
I have not stopped thinking about Tony, nor have I stopped thinking about how we could mark his resting place. Because he was estranged from his family and there were no known friends to organise his funeral, it was likely he wouldn’t get a headstone either.
I’m happy to report that after getting in touch with Southern Cemetery to ask about the logistics of getting a headstone, I learned that Manchester City Council will provide one, but the cost of an inscription and a bouquet will be £200. I know many of you were touched by Tony’s story, and that — like me — it deeply affected you. I’ve set up a small fundraiser on GoFundMe and if you would like to donate a small amount, it would be much appreciated.
Five key moments: How the emergency response to the arena bombing unravelled
By Jack Dulhanty
The massive public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the Manchester Arena Attack published its second report today — a 916-page document which highlights major failings on the part of the authorities in charge. The report finds that a lack of communication between police, ambulance and fire services led to a chaotic emergency response.
Greater Manchester Police didn’t declare a major incident until the early hours of the next morning, paramedics took 45 minutes to reach the injured and dying, the immediate care given by the arena’s on-site health team was “inadequate” and the fire service didn’t arrive until two hours after the explosion.
The report is a play-by-play of how each emergency service responded to the attack. “On the night, multi-agency communication between the three emergency services was non-existent,” the inquiry concludes. The failings had “serious consequences” for those directly affected by the attack and in the case of John Atkinson, who was six metres away from the explosion and died from his injuries, they might have been the difference between life and death.
Responding to the inquiry’s findings, Andy Burnham has said:
To those injured, to everyone still struggling and, most importantly, to the families of those who died – particularly John’s family and Saffie’s family – I wish to say this very clearly: you were badly let down on that night; you were entitled to expect much better from our emergency services than the response provided; and, as you have heard from them today, everyone here is truly sorry that did not happen.
Just before we sent this edition, the chief constable of Greater Manchester Police Stephen Watson released a statement in which he said:
I fully accept the findings of the Chair, Sir John Saunders. Beyond the selflessness and professionalism of so many of our frontline staff however, it is also clear that our coordination of the response to this atrocity was inadequate. We had failed to plan effectively and the execution of that which had been planned, was simply not good enough. Our actions were substantially inadequate and fell short of what the public had every right to expect.
I started reading the report at 8am this morning along with other journalists. As I went through it, I tried to pick out key moments of that terrible night that illustrate how the response from the authorities unravelled. This is by no means an exhaustive list of failings identified by the inquiry, but they give a good sense of how badly things went wrong.
It was 22:50 on the night of the attack (22 of May 2017) and Temporary Superintendent Arif Nawaz didn’t know what was going on. It had been 19 minutes since a bomb was detonated in the foyer of Manchester Arena, an area called the City Room, and Nawaz was being handed responsibility by Inspector Dale Sexton, the senior officer who happened to be in the control room when the call first came in.
Sexton had declared an “Operation Plato”, which is an emergency response to a marauding terror attack — like the ones in Paris in 2015 — on the understanding that the arena attack was this kind of attack rather than a bomb.
This made sense — reports were still hazy at that point, and people had said they heard gunshots. The problem was that Nawaz didn’t know what an Operation Plato was. Despite now being in charge of one, he didn’t say anything.
A little over an hour later, Nawaz would be relieved of those responsibilities, when it became clear he lacked the competence for the role. But in the intervening period, time was wasted and the correct plans weren’t put in place for how the emergency services should operate in the area around the arena.
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