JAILED terrorist Hashem Abedi has admitted for the first time his involvement in planning the Manchester Arena bombing which killed 22 people, a public inquiry has heard.
Abedi, 23, made the admission in prison last month while he was visited by two members of the inquiry’s legal team to be interviewed as part of the probe into the atrocity on May 22 2017.
The brother of suicide bomber Salman Abedi, 22, had pleaded not guilty earlier this year to 22 counts of murder, attempted murder and plotting to cause an explosion likely to endanger life.
He did not give evidence at the Old Bailey but provided a pre-prepared defence statement in which he denied involvement, claimed to have been “shocked” by what his brother had done and said he did not hold extremist views.
He went on to be convicted by a jury of all the offences and was handed 24 life sentences in August with a minimum term of 55 years before he can be considered for parole.
On October 22 Abedi was interviewed in prison, where he admitted he played “a full and knowing part”, the inquiry was told.
His admission was confirmed by Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Barraclough, of Greater Manchester Police, who was the senior investigating officer in the attack probe.
Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, said to him: “You are aware, on October 22 this year, in prison serving his sentence, Hashem Abedi was interviewed by members of the inquiry legal team?”
Mr Barraclough said: “Yes, I am.
Mr Greaney said: “This will be news to others.
“You are aware, on October 22, during the course of that interview, Hashem Abedi admitted he had played a full part and a knowing part in the planning and preparation for the Arena attack?”
Mr Barraclough replied: “Yes, I think that’s a fair summary.”
The detective added that there is “no doubt in my mind” that the prosecution of Abedi was “entirely well founded”.
Mr Greaney said: “So the point you are making is that it didn’t need him to tell you that you had got it right?”
Mr Barraclough responded: “I think we had got there with the trial.”
No other details of the prison interview were given.
Hashem Abedi travelled to Libya, where his parents were born, the month before the bombing and was arrested shortly after the attack and extradited to Britain last summer.
He was interviewed by detectives and refused to answer any questions, but gave a pre-prepared statement in which he denied any involvement in the plot.
He said he first became aware of the atrocity the day after and a few hours before he was arrested by Libyan militia forces.
Abedi said: “Had I any idea of it I would have reported it to my mother initially and then to other family members to prevent it from happening.
“I was shocked my brother had done this and felt bad for everybody.”
He added he was a practising Muslim who did not hold extremist views or support Isis.
Abedi did not give evidence at his trial, absented himself from much of the proceedings and sacked his legal team.
He also refused to attend his sentencing hearing, and last month it emerged he is being detained at County Durham’s maximum-security Frankland Prison.
Figen Murray, mother of Martyn Hett, 29, who was killed in the bombing, said: “Thinking back to that courtroom in August, it would have been more bearable for all of us if he told the truth then.
“We wanted to put that chapter behind us but focus our energies on the inquiry which continues to be a gruelling and long process.
“We have to relive the pain and heartbreak and so it does not heal our grief but only the hope that a sense of justice will at least help to rebuild the lives of those this experience has affected.”
The Abedi brothers, from Fallowfield in south Manchester, spent months ordering, stockpiling and transporting the deadly materials for the terror attack, using multiple mobile phones, addresses and runaround vehicles to make their bomb.
They joined their parents in Libya the month before the blast, but Salman returned to the UK on May 18.
He bought the final components needed for the bomb, rented a flat in the city centre in which to build it and carried out reconnaissance on the Arena before finally executing the plot as fans departed from an Ariana Grande concert.
Additional Reporting By The Press Association