Manchester bomb plotter Hashem Abedi to learn fate as judge ponders minimum jail term
Manchester Arena bomb plotter Hashem Abedi is due to be sentenced for his part in the atrocity on Thursday, more than three years after 22 people were murdered and hundreds of others were hurt.
Grieving families gave emotional evidence from courtroom two of the Old Bailey on Wednesday as judge Mr Justice Jeremy Baker began the process of sentencing the homegrown Islamic State-inspired jihadi.
Manchester-born Abedi, now 23, again refused to attend court, despite apparently being brought into the building from Belmarsh prison, having previously sacked his legal team and effectively withdrawing from the murder trial.
The judge said he was powerless to force Abedi into the dock, and also confirmed to those present in the court and watching remotely via videolink that Abedi cannot be handed a whole-life sentence because he was under the age of 21 at the time of the offences.
However, he could be given multiple life sentences with a minimum starting point of 30 years.
It was Abedi’s older brother, 22-year-old Salman, who detonated his suicide bomb at 10.31pm on May 22 2017, killing men, women and children aged between eight and 51.
The court heard powerful statements from some of the victims’ family members, who spoke of their devastating loss, their endless grief, and the gaping voids left by the massacre.
Survivors also recalled feeling guilty, for escaping the blast with their lives when others did not, and for instantly thinking the worst when they saw people wearing backpacks on tubes.
Harriet Taylor paid tribute to her mother, Jane Tweddle, 51, a school receptionist who lived in Blackpool, and said evil would not triumph.
She said in a statement: “We simply will not let evil win. Evil is invisible, it has no face, no heart, no race.
“But what we have that evil never will have is love.”
Michael Thompson, father of victim Michelle Kiss, 45, from Whalley in Lancashire, said: “We believe there is more good in the world than bad but unfortunately it only takes one bad person to devastate and destroy so many lives.”
The mothers of teenage sweethearts Chloe Rutherford, 17, and Liam Curry, 19, also told of their devastation.
Lisa Rutherford said: “As a family we need answers, we are destroyed.”
Ms Rutherford, who was supporting herself on crutches as she read her statement, said her “heart snapped” when she received a telephone call with the news that her daughter had died.
Wiping away tears, she said: “We are lost, we are devastated and we feel an overwhelming loss.”
Caroline Curry held up a photo of her son and appeared to address some of her comments to the absent Abedi.
She said: “You took from me something more precious than gold, a beautiful boy, inside and out.
“I want you to look at Liam and remember the beautiful boy that was snatched away.
“Your actions have caused this heartbreak. I just feel cheated. You took his future, my future, my family’s future. All we have now is heartbreak and dreams of what if.”
And Samantha Leczkowski, mother of Sorrell Leczkowski, 14, from Leeds, said her daughter’s bedroom had been kept “untouched” since she died.
“I cannot bring myself to alter Sorrell’s room,” she said.
“Losing one of my children has killed me, I may as well be dead.”
Abedi was found guilty by a jury in March of 22 counts of murder, attempted murder and plotting to cause an explosion likely to endanger life.
The court heard he helped source, buy, stockpile and transport components for his older brother’s bomb from January 2017, using multiple mobile phones, vehicles and addresses to stash the deadly materials.
Jurors were then shown chilling CCTV footage of Salman travelling to the foyer of the arena, before detonating his bomb as crowds were leaving an Ariana Grande pop concert.
His body was later recovered in four parts.
The defendant, who travelled to Libya the month before the bombing, was arrested hours after the attack and was extradited back to Britain last summer, telling police he wanted to cooperate.
The 22 people who were killed were: off-duty police officer Elaine McIver, 43, Saffie Roussos, eight, Sorrell Leczkowski, 14, Eilidh MacLeod, 14, Nell Jones, 14, Olivia Campbell-Hardy, 15, Megan Hurley, 15, Georgina Callander, 18, Chloe Rutherford, 17, Liam Curry, 19, Courtney Boyle, 19, Philip Tron, 32, John Atkinson, 28, Martyn Hett, 29, Kelly Brewster, 32, Angelika Klis, 39, Marcin Klis, 42, Michelle Kiss, 45, Alison Howe, 44, Lisa Lees, 43, Wendy Fawell, 50, and Jane Tweddle, 51.
A public inquiry into the bombing is scheduled to start next month.