Senior police officer expresses ’embarrassment’ at taking taxi from Blackpool to Manchester bomb arena

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A former senior British Transport Police (BTP) officer has expressed regret and “professional embarrassment” after he arrived at Manchester Arena in a taxi nearly three hours after the bombing in 2017 which killed 22 people.

Kyle Gordon, who was a superintendent of BTP and is now a commander with the Metropolitan Police, was off-duty and not on-call on the night of the terrorist attack on May 22 2017.

He was appointed bronze commander on the night and tasked with co-ordinating events at ground level.

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An inquiry into the terror attack heard Commander Gordon was tasked to attend the venue at 11.12pm from his temporary accommodation in Blackpool, and was recorded as being on-scene at 1.23am.

Police deploy at scene of explosion in Manchester, England, on May 23, 2017Police deploy at scene of explosion in Manchester, England, on May 23, 2017
Police deploy at scene of explosion in Manchester, England, on May 23, 2017

The bomb detonated by Salman Abedi exploded just after 10.30pm.

Commander Gordon did not have his day book, police radio or access to a police vehicle that night, and his personal car was in Northern Ireland, where he had travelled from that morning.

Giving evidence to the inquiry on Wednesday, Commander Gordon said he booked a taxi to drive him to Manchester, which he believed would arrive “imminently” within five to 10 minutes of calling.

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Commander Gordon said he believed bronze command is transferable, and he did not know or ask who was at the scene in command at the time.

“It would not have crossed my mind that there was any sort of command vacuum at the scene,” he said.

“There are decisions we make in policing that with retrospect are easier to justify than others.

“I do not know why I didn’t update him (Chief Supt Gregory) or make other arrangements.

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“It is a matter of some personal regret and actual professional embarrassment that on the night in question I didn’t find another way to get to the scene.”

The inquiry heard his work BlackBerry phone had “depleted of power” during the journey to Manchester, and he had lost access to emails.

When asked whether this would have impeded his ability to carry out his duties, he responded: “Yes, potentially it would have.

“In the absence of a radio, a fully charged work BlackBerry would have been much better.”

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Commander Gordon said he spoke to BTP Chief Inspector Andrea Graham, who was Sector Commander for the Manchester area and was the most senior officer on scene, at 00.28am while he was en-route.

He said Chief Insp Graham was acting as bronze commander at the time and so he diverted the taxi journey to his Manchester office to put on his uniform and pick up his radio.

The inquiry heard he was recorded as on-scene at the arena at 1.23am, and exchanged briefings with Chief Insp Graham at 1.27am and took over as bronze commander.

The inquiry heard a report by policing experts found Commander Gordon did not have any knowledge of Greater Manchester Police’s (GMP) contingency plan for the arena.

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The officer accepted the policing experts’ comments that “there is little evidence that (he) was able to influence BTP actions or operational decisions during your journey”.

Duncan Atkinson QC, representing the bereaved families, asked Commander Gordon about his involvement with a BBC interview which aired in June 2018.

Sir John Saunders, the inquiry’s chairman, said there were “concerns among the families, because of the effect on them of that broadcast taking place and what was said”.

Commander Gordon, who said he wanted to answer the question as an individual “Kyle Gordon”, said: “With hindsight, I should never have been involved.

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“You talk about learning going forward, and it was an error of judgment on my part regardless of how it came about that I took part.

“And I would not do so again.”

Looking visibly upset and holding back tears, he said: “I didn’t mean to cause any harm.”

The inquiry is looking at events before, during and after the explosion on the evening of May 22 which killed 22 people and injured hundreds at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.

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