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MI5 and the Arena bombing
Families want answers about repeated red flags, plus the rest of your briefing
Dear Millers — welcome to this week’s briefing. And a special welcome to our dozens of new members who joined in the past few days! It’s great to have you onboard, thanks for your support.
In today’s edition, we’ve got a very dark and mysterious flat for sale, an update to our Mana story, and a look at how MI5 treated intelligence on the Arena bomber in the lead up to the attack. Plus, our first ever Mill diary item…
On Saturday, we published a fascinating piece by historian and Mill writer Dr Thomas McGrath. It’s about Wigan’s mill girls and the painting Dinner Hour by artist Eyre Crowe. You can read that here.
Our story goes national
Our investigation into Mana, Manchester’s only Michelin star restaurant has been picked up by the national media, with the Daily Mail covering it today and the Times putting it on page three on Saturday. The paper’s new northern correspondent Tom Ball, got a response from Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, where Simon Martin claimed to have worked. A source said:
The chef de patron, who has been at the restaurant for 11 years, has no knowledge of him [Martin] being part of the restaurant business.
In our follow-up story for members, we also spoke to a former Noma chef about why they thought Martin had left the best restaurant in the world, and gauged the reaction of Manchester’s hospitality industry to our story.
Manchester Confidential recommended our story this weekend, writing:
The tide has been changing for some time now with many owners taking huge steps forwards to look after their staff's wellbeing. Let's continue to aim to support those restaurants that treat their staff well.
If you want to support us so that we can take on more stories like our Mana investigation, including examining wider issues in Manchester’s hospitality industry, hit the button below to join as a member.
This week’s weather 🌦
Our forecast comes from local weatherman Martin Miles, who says: “A stormy week of weather awaits as an active jet stream drives several low-pressure systems our way. The period between Wednesday and Friday will be lively with strong winds. Several weather warnings are likely to be issued.”
Monday 🌦 Showery rain will gradually clear during Monday morning. A brighter and drier afternoon will follow, but there will still be the odd shower. Windy. Max 8°c.
Tuesday 🌦 Rain will bring a wet start before drier and brighter weather arrives from the north. Less windy, especially PM. Max 8°c.
Wednesday 🌧 A potent area of low pressure will make for a wet and windy day. Winds will be strongest after dark and overnight into Thursday. Gusts may reach over 50mph and weather warnings are likely to be issued. Very mild. Max 13°c.
Thursday 🌦 Strong wind gusts will continue during the morning, gradually easing as the day progresses. Despite the wind, Thursday will be a drier and brighter day. Max 8°c.
Friday 🌧 Further powerful wind gusts and heavy rain (possibly snow) may lead to disruption. Max 8°c.
Weekend 🌦 An unsettled weather pattern will continue.
For the full forecast visit Manchester Weather on Facebook, which posts forecasts daily at 6.15am.
The Arena Inquiry trains its sights on the secret service
The “gist”: The Manchester Arena Inquiry will hear the "gist" of evidence given over three weeks of secret hearings that looked into MI5's response to the attack, the Times reports.
So far: The inquiry has spent 18 months scrutinising emergency responses, the quality of stewarding at the arena and how the Abedi brothers planned the attack.
First since 9/11: The MI5 hearings were the first time since 9/11 that part of an inquiry into a terrorist attack took place in secret.
Victims’ families: Lawyers for the victim's families were able to submit questions to the secret hearings, a summary of which will be read out to the inquiry at the end of this week.
Some families want MI5's director general of counterterrorism — known to the inquiry as witness J — recalled to answer any further questions they may have regarding the gist.
Context: MI5 have admitted to receiving intelligence in the months before the bombing that it assessed to be innocent activity.
MI5 will not disclose what that intelligence was to protect its source. But it did say that “in retrospect the intelligence was highly relevant to the planned attack."
The families believe there was a culmination of "minor red flags" that, had they been subject to MI5 surveillance, would have given cause to apprehend the Abedi brothers and stop the attack.
Duncan Atkinson QC, representing the families, asked: “Are MI5 and Counter Terrorism Police's systems for addressing repeated minor red flags now adequate? What more can be done?”
Questions: Many of the families’ questions will be concerned with the extent to which MI5 was monitoring the Abedis. And, how comprehensive an intelligence profile it built on the bomber, Salman Abedi.
Latest: Today, the inquiry heard from two detective inspectors from GMP, who were asked questions regarding the attack’s preventability. More here.
Home of the week
Plotting to become Manchester’s next supervillain? You might like this 2-bed apartment in Piccadilly Basin, which for reasons unknown, is painted entirely black. It’s on the market for £375,000.
Other local news in brief
The public inquiry into the Post Office’s accounting scandal started today. Della Robinson from Dukinfield, who we interviewed in a very moving piece last year, was one of the subpostmasters affected. She’s one of the victims sharing their impact statements at the inquiry.
GMP has paid £2,800 in damages to a homeless woman who accused them of failing to properly investigate her report of sexual assault. The officers closed the case without taking a formal statement from the woman or any witnesses. More here.
Tameside council said they had "no idea" that the building of a HS2 line could cut Tameside's tram link to the city centre for two years. Council leader Brenda Warrington expressed dismay at the "potential economic disadvantage that the severance of the Metrolink line would put us to." More here.
Rates of Covid-19 in GM continue to fall. The region's current case rate is 378.9, down 36.4%, compared to England's 627.1, down 31.2%. Rates are highest in Stockport and lowest in Oldham. On average, there are eight Covid deaths a day in Greater Manchester.
The Mill Diary ✒
Last week, we reported in one of our members’ editions that Trafford council leader Andrew Western was hotly tipped to get his hands on the safe parliamentary seat in Stretford and Urmston now that Kate Green MP has announced she is standing down. Western has just moved to Urmston and a source told us: "He will have known she’s going because they are very close.” By convention, a female Labour MP standing down should mean we get an all-women shortlist for the seat, but the party seems to disregard that idea when it wants to. A well-connected reader writes in: “Councillor Joanne Harding who has entered the race would be a better choice, rather than the Labour boys drinking club appointing their lad Andrew at the bar of the City Arms.”
Email the diary: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our to do list
🎧 Listen | In this episode of BBC Radio 4’s Canal Boat Diaries, presenter Robbie Cumming runs aground on the Rochdale Canal as he tries to reach Manchester. Listen here.
🧀 Food | Artisan Scottish cheesemongers IJ Mellis will be visiting The Butcher's Quarter on Deansgate Mews for a special cheese and wine tasting this Friday. Book here.
🗣 Talk | On Thursday, Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society is hosting a talk, “Legacy of Empire”. Award-winning journalist/author Sathnam Sanghera will be in discussion with Dr Michael Taylor. Book here.
🎶 Music | The Invisible Thread project connects people experiencing loneliness through relaxed meet-up concerts. Meet this Friday at St Peter’s House Chaplaincy. Book here.
🖼 Exhibition | Longtime Miller Phil Griffin is hosting an art exhibition of printmaker Sam Lyon Spice’s work on Friday. It’s at 45 Hilton Street in the Northern Quarter from 6pm.
📽 Watch | Trafford Hongkongers have a few spare tickets left for their documentary film screenings about social activism in Hong Kong on Sunday at Stretford Public Hall. Email email@example.com to book your place
Our favourite reads
Has Manchester rebuilt London’s housing crisis? — Manchester Evening News
The MEN’s political editor Jennifer Williams suggests that rising rents are driving thousands of families out of their tenancies and into temporary accommodation. “Those on lower incomes here face a perfect storm. As rates of housing benefit for private sector tenants have been largely frozen, cut or capped by government, the city around them has become the poster-child for northern economic renaissance, pushing rents beyond their reach.”
‘I’m my mother’s son, which was terrible news for my father’ — The Guardian
The Finkler Question author and Mancunian Howard Jacobson shares an extract of his new memoir. “This is how I remember myself: a failed baby, miserable in my body, demeaned by all the appurtenances of baby-being and perambulation, not wanting to be lifted, not wanting to be put down, resenting being pushed, resisting being rocked, uncomfortable in the clothes that people who have forgotten what it’s like to be a baby choose for them.”
This interesting piece takes us to meet Oldham-born Wajid Yaseen, a sound artist and director of London-based arts collective Modus Arts, who started an oral history project called ‘Tape Letters’. “Listening to the tapes transported Yaseen back to his childhood and days he spent singing with his father. While reminiscing, he came across another set which his mother had used to record messages to be sent back to relatives in Pakistan.”
The Mysterious Body-Snatcher of Middleton — Manchester’s Finest
We enjoyed learning about Owd Kankey, a man named Willian Lancashire who lived in the 19th century and had “eccentric habits” and was a bit of a recluse. It was rumoured that he stole bodies from graves. “Then at night, under cover of darkness, he would go up to the cemetery and dig up the body. It’s said that he would then carry the body on his back (hence the hunch) down the ginnel to a boat waiting on the river.”