Manchester Arena bomb inquiry: Salman Abedi had ‘problematic’ attitude towards women that was ‘red flag’ to his radicalisation

  • Manchester Arena terror attack public inquiry resumes  
  • Inquiry hears that Salman Abedi punched female student following row about wearing short skirt
  • Incident viewed as a 'red flag' to radicalisation
  • Closing submissions into the inquiry are set to be made in February

The public inquiry into the Manchester Arena terror attack has heard evidence that Salman Abedi presented problematic behaviour in his school years which could have been a “red flag” to his radicalisation.

An expert in Islamist extremism told the hearing into the May 2017 Manchester Arena attack that one of the factors in the 22-year-old’s motivation to carry out the suicide bombing was religious-inspired misogyny.

Dr Matthew Wilkinson said there was a pattern of those convicted of Islamist extremist offences also having a history of violence towards women, while the so-called Islamic State group – said to have inspired the bomber – was widely known for its denigration of women.

During his studies at Manchester College in 2012 and 2013, Abedi punched a student, also from the city’s Libyan community, after she slapped him following comments he made about her appearance.

Abedi retaliated by striking her on the face and then delivered further punches as she lay on the ground, the inquiry heard.

Dr Wilkinson agreed with Nicholas de la Poer QC, counsel to the inquiry, that the incident could be interpreted as being driven by misogyny.

He said: “Yes, very much so, and we have other reports from fellow students saying he had related disrespectfully to female members of staff and teachers. One fellow student said he had real problems with women.

There is this profile of someone who had a very bad attitude towards women

Abedi was suspended by the college but no charges were brought. Police told the college it was safe for him to return after the restorative justice process, the inquiry heard.

Mr de la Poer asked: “Do you consider this particular incident should have been raising a red flag for the authorities about whether Salman Abedi had at that stage potentially developed a ‘them and us worldview’ which required some sort of intervention?”

Dr Wilkinson replied: “I think if that event had been investigated properly it might have done. It might have flagged up the issues of dress code being abhorrent to Salman.”

Another expert concluded Abedi’s behaviour was “problematic” throughout his time in education, particularly as a schoolboy at Burnage Media Arts College, where there were incidents of extreme rudeness to staff, fighting, swearing, theft and hooliganism.

Dr Wilkinson said the Manchester College assault “perhaps” would not have raised a flag on its own but “it might have done”.

Dr Wilkinson said: “If you had added all of it up you would have seen, in my opinion, the profile of a young person who was vulnerable to criminality generally, to criminal influences, to being taken down the wrong path”.

He agreed with John Cooper QC, representing the bereaved families, that it was an example of different agencies not communicating with each other.

Closing submissions in relation to the planning and preparation of the attack and Salman Abedi’s radicalisation are expected to be made in February.