American singer Ariana Grande has returned to Manchester this week ahead of a benefit gig called One Love Manchester which she will headline. The concert will go ahead tomorrow at the Old Trafford cricket ground in Manchester and will feature many top artists, including Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Pharrell Williams, Usher, Take That and One Director’s Niall Horan. Approximately 14,000 free tickets were reserved to be claimed by those who were present at Grande’s Manchester Arena bombing on the night it was targeted by suicide bomber Salman Abedi on the 22 May. Sadly many of these people have been experiencing difficulties in proving they were at the original concert – mainly, it seems, as the tickets they bought were bought from secondary sellers who still have the booking information required to get the free tickets. The organisers have received many complaints and have been slowly working through the backlog to try and ensure that the most number of people who were at the original concert and want to go to this concert will get their free tickets.
Ticketmaster and their parent company LiveNation extended the registration deadline for free tickets and said: “We want to give all fans who were at the show, regardless of where they bought their tickets, every opportunity to register for One Love Manchester. We worked through the night and verified thousands of original bookings although there were some we could not verify.”
One Ariana Grande fan told The Guardian: “My tickets were originally bought by a travel company specialising in music event travels. I then paid £100 for a £45 ticket on Viagogo. These companies [who originally purchased the tickets] can claim these [free] tickets they are not entitled to, and resell them all over again. We’ve escaped with our lives the horror of the terror attack and now I find I will not be able to take them.”
It seems that only 9,000 or so of the 14,000 who attended the original concert have received free tickets for tomorrow night’s One Love Manchester, but it is unclear how many of the 5,000 without tickets wanted to go to the concert anyway. No doubt many will be reluctant to do so after the experience at the Manchester Arena. It is a shame that Ticketmaster were not more prepared for the situation, but this is clearly a lesson to people out there that buying tickets from anyone other than the original seller is not a good idea. Those that did in this case not only paid way more than the original asking price, but they didn’t receive the booking information that they need to claim free tickets. As long as people continue doing this, then the touts and resale sites will continue to flourish.
Ticketmaster, however, clearly need to ensure the tickets only went to the correct people as – unsurprisingly – some 25,000 people have claimed to be at the original concert and have made applications for the free tickets. They may get more than they bargained for as police are now investigating whether they have committed any criminal offence, perhaps fraud, in making “unscrupulous” claims. Ticketmaster said “more than 25,000 people” had logged on to the website and specified they were seeking tickets they were not entitled to. Ticketmaster called them “opportunists and touts,” many of whom would then sell them on for profit. Stuart Ellison of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said they would look at whether action should be taken against “unscrupulous applications,” adding: “That is a matter we are exploring with the promoter. These lines are being worked through with the promoter.” He added that he couldn’t give the likelihood that prosecutions will follow “without going into each one on merit, I can’t answer that.” I think they should prosecute every last one for fraud. If they went on to Ticketmaster and made an application claiming they were at the concert, then that is attempting to obtain a product by fraudulent means.
The rest of the tickets for the concert sold out in 20 minutes of going on sale to the public s at £40 a go. Many tickets are now already appearing on Ebay at inflated prices. Ebay moved to block the sale of the tickets and other products related to the concert. Ebay UK said in a statement:
“All tickets for the One Love Manchester event will most certainly be removed by the team who are doing manual sweeps to pick up any that slip through. We also aren’t allowing the sale of any item which profits in any way from the tragedy in Manchester. All of these items are being removed if they appear, and the sellers’ accounts will be restricted.”
The resale ticket site Viagogo said that some 11,000 people were looking for One Love Manchester tickets on their site on Thursday morning after they went on sale. Sites such as Viagogo, Seatwave and StubHub have been frequently criticised for profiting of the resale of charity events in the past. The Switzerland-based Viagogo was accused of “moral repugnance” after reselling tickets for an Ed Sheeran gig in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust and was branded “callous” for cashing in on a charity event featuring the comedian Peter Kay. The company also snubbed a request to speak to a parliamentary select committee into ticket reselling and was accused of “naked mis-selling and fraud” by the committee.
The One Love Manchester concert will be broadcast on the BBC and will be attended by nearly 50,000 people. Obligingly, in order not to “distract from an important cause,” ITV has rescheduled the Britain’s Got Talent final to this evening and the British Soap Awards due to be broadcast this evening will now be shown on Tuesday night. All performers have waived their fees and the show is expected to raise £2m for the emergency fund set by up Manchester City Council and the British Red Cross in support of the Manchester victims and families. Manchester cinemas will also be raising money from screenings of the movie Wonder Woman. This will be boosted by Warner Bros. giving all its box office share that night to the cause along with revenue from advertising run around the films.
One Love Manchester takes place on the same day as a testimonial football match for Manchester United’s Michael Carrick, which takes place at the Old Trafford football ground. The events are expecting a combined crowd of 130,000 people in the area, which is proving a security and logistical nightmare for GMP. Chief Superintendent Stuart Ellison said of the situation: “That brings us an extraordinary challenge on the back of an extraordinary week.” Mr Ellison urged football fans and concertgoers not to drive or bring bags as both would have an impact on getting people in and out of the Trafford area and venues. Police are being drafted in from around the country to assist in the policing effort. Mr Ellison added: “We have a significant police response – armed and unarmed – available to support both events from the morning right through to midnight.”
While in Manchester preparing for Sunday’s One Love Manchester concert, Ariana Grande paid a surprise visit yesterday to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital to meet some of her fans who were victims of the bombing. The girls she met were overjoyed to see her and they and their parents were posting images of the meetings on social media. She met 14-year-old Evie Mills from Harrogate (above), who also met the Queen when she visited the hospital on 25 May.
She also met 8-year-old Lily Harrison (above) who “felt like a rock star,” according to her father Adam Harrison. He said that she was “skipping” with joy after meeting her pop idol: “She is made up. We were the last room on the ward to be visited and the excitement was building for Lily.” Lily, who is due to be discharged in time to go to the concert tomorrow, was at the concert on 22 May with her father. He said that when the explosion occurred he picked her up “like a rugby ball and ran for it.” He added: “She’s now ready to go for tomorrow’s concert. She feels like a rock star and has been listening to her Ariana Grande playlist and wants to go. After last night, she would disown me and her mum if we didn’t take her.”
Jaden Mann (above) was another girl who got to meet Ariana last night. Her father, Peter Mann, wrote on social media of the visit: “This means more to us than all the amazing things people have done this week. So happy she came I could burst. Never seen Jaden so happy; even cried again myself.” He said that Jaden, after her second operation, just wanted to know: “Is Ariana OK?” Jaden herself posted on her Twitter feed: “I got to meet my queen todaylove you @ArianaGrandexxxxxx.” She also posted the photos included above. Jaden certainly impressed the nurses at the hospital, one of whom said of her: “I think she’s a little star struck. No1 deserves this more than her. That smile! And what a lovely girl Ariana Grande is.”
Greater Manchester Police earlier this week sealed off an area in Devell Houe in Rusholme, Greater Manchester. They say that have found a white Nissan Micra car that may be “significant” in their continuing investigation into the Manchester Arena bombing. GMP are also continuing discussions with prosecutors over what charges can be brought against the men they have in custody, accused of being part of the “network” that was behind or supported Salman Abedi’s attack. The wealth of intelligence and forensic material needs to be analysed and converted into evidence that will support criminal charges. Charges could relate to offences under the Terrorism Act and conspiracy to murder. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), who are responsible for deciding if charges should be laid against people, confirmed it is in discussions with GMP and added: “We are giving the police early investigative advice regarding the Manchester attack on 22 May.”
The car was parked near Manchester Royal Infirmary but police chose not to evacuate the hospital. Some nearby houses, including the nearby Ronald McDonald House were evacuated. The house provides accommodation for families of children being treated at nearby Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital – where some of the children injured in the attack are being treated. The car, which was parked in the underground car park of an apartment block, was removed some time later. DCS Russ Jackson, of GMP, asked for information: “ We are very interested in anything people can tell us about the movements of this car and who was in it over the past few months. We are also interested in any information about who may have had access to the car or who may have gone to and from it.”
Investigators are following up all leads relating to Salman Abedi’s movements after he returned from Libya on 18 May. They said:
“What we still need to understand is if he had any of the bomb parts in his possession before he went out of the country. This is why we are tracking his movements so carefully.
“We have made a lot of progress in this with the use of CCTV and have received some really helpful calls from the public. This has led us to the Banff Road area in Rusholme. We have had police officers conducting house-to-house inquiries, but we are still not satisfied why Abedi went there, and it’s vital we understand exactly where he went there and who he spoke to in these final days before the attack.
“We need the public’s help in this. If you have previously called and have information, I would urge you to call again. We need your help as we piece together what happened in the lead-up to the attack and if Abedi was helped by anyone.”
Police investigating the movements of Salman Abedi (pictured above after his return from Libya on 18 May) said that the bomber purchased the parts for his bomb and constructed it within just four days. This further suggests a network and that Abedi had training. The police say that with training he could have built the bomb in just 24 hours. Reports are now suggesting that Abedi had links with the ringleader of the Paris attacks Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Abedi, whose parents live in Libya, made numerous visits to Libya to see them and returned to the UK for the last time just four days before the suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena. It is being said that Abei met with the Islamic special operations unit Katibat al-Battar al-Libi while in Tripoli and the coastal city Sabratha. The reports of Abedi’s alleged contacts in Libya come from a retired European intelligence officer speaking to the New York Times. The source also said that Abedi maintained contacts while back in the UK:
“When Abedi was in the UK, the contacts happened sometimes by phone. If the content of the call was sensitive, he used phones that were disposable, or dispatches were sent from Libya by his contacts to his ‘friend’ – living in Germany or Belgium – who then sent it to Abedi in the UK.”
Investigators have been focusing on Abedi’s movements in Libya and working with intelligence sources and the government there, though that is complicated as Libya has rival governments and thousands of militia in various parts of the country. Katibat al-Battar al-Libi was originally formed by Libyan jihadis fighting in Syria in 2012, and attracted Belgian, French and Tunisian foreign fighters. Abdelhami Abaoud is their ringleader and is also linked to attacks at the Brussels Jewish Museum (2014) and the Thalys train attack (2015). The Katibat al-Battar al-Libi are also connected to terrorists who carried out the 2015 attack on a Tunisian beach, in Sousse, which killed 30 British tourists.
The chaos in Libya in recent years, which has been exploited by the Islamic State, threatens to make the country a major springboard for terror attacks on Europe. The country is already being used by IS who have training camps in the country that are used for “plotters actively planning operations against Europe.” A report by the European policing organisation Europol says:
“Libya could develop into a second springboard for Isis, after Syria, for attacks in the EU and the North African region.
“Since mid-2015 Libya has become a major destination for Isis fighters in its own right and is believed to having become a hub for EU foreign terrorist fighters who, on returning to Europe, plan further terrorist attacks.”
It therefore seems likely that Abedi may have received bomb-making training in Libya. The materials for the bomb he would have bought in the UK when returning here. The explosives and construction he used was alarmingly similar to trademark techniques used in IS attacks and plots. The materials are all commercially-available and the explosive, triacetone triperoxide (TATP), is homemade. Dr Sidney Alford, an explosive expert, says that Abedi could have built his bomb in just a few hours:
“It’s simple. It takes only about a couple of hours to make, then you need to filter it and wash it and dry it.
“How long it takes to dry depends on your facilities but in a normal house with a radiator or something to stand it on, you could leave it overnight.”
Dr Alford argued that as TATP is “sensitive” and dangerous to handle he guessed that “Abedi was given experience in doing it.” He explained: “I’m quite sure that a person who has been on a terrorist course will be instructed by people who will know how to arrange things so that the possibility of killing yourself [during manufacture] is quite low.”
Manchester poet Tony Walsh (above) gave an interview to The Guardian, published today, in which he discussed the Manchester bombing and his role in the memorials after it. He appeared at the vigil in Albert Square the night after the bombing, reading his ode to the city of Manchester, “This is the Place.” His poem was received with eruptions of applause and cheers. The interview discusses his reaction to the bombing and the reception he has received from the people of Manchester, but he is aware of where his newly-found fame has come from:
“Wherever this goes for me, I’m really mindful of where this has come from and why I find myself here. I’ve shed more than a few tears this week for those kids and those families. I’ve been to the arena many times with my kids. It could have been any of us.
“It’s easy to knock arena gigs – the burgers, the prices. But to have those special moments with 20,000 people, see world-class artists, world-class sport. To have your kids on your shoulders, to bond with strangers. Those kids had that night violated, desecrated.”
The interview, given with The Guardian’s Emine Saner, is well worth a read. READ THE INTERVIEW.
Sources & Further Reading:
- Manchester benefit gig: ‘opportunists and touts’ try to get free tickets – theguardian.com –1 June 2017 – by Rob Davies, Mark Sweney and Frances Perraudin
- Explosives experts called over car ‘linked to Manchester bomber’ – theguardian.com – 2 June 2017 – by Jamie Grierson and Vikram Dodd
- Ariana Grande visits injured fans in hospital – theguardian.com – 2 June 2017 – by Press Association
- One Love Manchester: false ticket applicants may be investigated – theguardian.com – 3 June 2017 – by Press Association
- Manchester attack: Ariana Grande visits injured fans – bbc.co.uk – 3 June 2017
- Manchester poet Tony Walsh: ‘I’ve shed more than a few tears this week’ – theguardian.com – 3 June 2017
- Manchester Bomber Met With ISIS Unit in Libya, Officials Say – nytimes.com – 3 June 2017 – by Rukmini Callimachi and Eric Schmitt
- Manchester attack: Salman Abedi ‘made bomb in four days’ after potentially undergoing terror training in Libya – independent.co.uk – 3 June 2017 – by Lizzie Dearden