Brother guilty over Arena blast that killed Scots schoolgirl

Eilidh MacLeod, from Barra, was just 14 when she was killed at the Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017.

The brother of the Manchester Arena bomber has been found guilty of murdering 22 people – including a Scots schoolgirl – and injuring hundreds more in the “cruel and cowardly” attack.

Eilidh MacLeod, from Barra, was just 14 when she was killed at the Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017.

The teen had travelled to the city with her friend Laura MacIntyre, who was among those badly injured in the blast caused by Salman Abedi.

Hashem Abedi, 22, was not present at the conclusion of his seven-week trial at the Old Bailey on Tuesday, where a jury found him guilty of 22 counts of murder, attempted murder and conspiring with his brother to cause explosions.

It came as the senior investigating officer said Hashem was “every bit as responsible” as his older brother – and may have been the senior figure in the plot, with intentions for further bloodshed around the world – even though he was in Libya when Salman detonated the bomb.

Detective chief superintendent Simon Barraclough said: “If you look at these two brothers, they are not kids caught in the headlights of something they don’t understand.

“These two men are the real deal, these are proper jihadis – you do not walk into a space like the Manchester Arena and kill yourself with an enormous bomb like that, taking 22 innocent lives with you, if you are not a proper jihadist.

“He was with his brother throughout the entire process of making this explosive and building this bomb, I believe he provided encouragement right up to the end.

“This was all about the sick ideology of Islamic State and this desire for martyrdom.”

Those that died in the attack were aged between eight and 51.

Jurors were shown CCTV footage of Salman travelling to the foyer of the arena, before detonating his bomb at 10.31pm just as crowds left the venue.

Afterwards, Greater Manchester Police found Hashem’s fingerprints at key addresses and in a vehicle, which still contained traces of explosives.

He was arrested in Libya and extradited last summer.

Following his arrest, Hashem, who declined to give evidence, had tried to “point the finger of responsibility” at his dead brother in a police statement.

Prosecutor Duncan Penny QC said: “At its most fundamental level, it was an attempt to evade responsibility for his own culpability, for the cruel and cowardly carnage that took place at the arena that night.”

Following Eilidh’s death, a new bagpipe tune was composed to help support the work of a charity set up in her name. A bronze sculpture is also to be created in her memory.

Lawyer Victoria Higgins, of Slater and Gordon, which represented 11 of the bereaved families, said: “Families have waited a long time to see Hashem Abedi face justice for his crimes and I think the overwhelming emotion for most will be one of relief that he cannot hurt anyone else.

“It has been incredibly painful for them to hear, in detail, what happened to their loved ones and the calculated way in which the Abedi brothers plotted to end their lives.”

A public inquiry into the bombing is due to begin in June.

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