LONDON: A police officer on duty at the Manchester Arena went on an “unacceptable” two-hour dinner break on the day of Salman Abedi’s 2017 suicide bombing, an inquiry has heard.
Jessica Bullough, a British Transport Police officer, told the inquiry she “probably” would have asked to inspect Abedi’s backpack had she been present.
Bullough returned to her patrol duties just after the bomber walked along a train station platform toward the arena.
Once inside, Abedi detonated a homemade bomb after an Ariana Grande concert, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds.
Bullough told the public inquiry that her break should have been about an hour long. But records showed that she was away for more than two hours, during which she drove for half an hour to buy a kebab with a colleague.
Paul Greaney, QC, asked the officer during the inquiry: “When you look back, does that seem to be acceptable?” She replied: “No, unacceptable.”
Bullough received an award for bravery following the attack, as she was the first officer on scene after the explosion.
Last week, the inquiry found that about half an hour before the bombing, a security worker alerted Bullough to a “praying crank” on the upstairs level of the arena. Bullough said she had no memory of being warned.
When the explosion occurred, there were no uniformed officers at the arena entrance, despite guidelines stating that at least one officer should be stationed there at the end of concerts.
The officers on duty that day had all left the arena to take a dinner break at the same time, despite instructions to take turns on breaks and to finish by 9 p.m. The inquiry is expected to conclude next year.