FAMILIES of the 22 people horrifically murdered in the Manchester Arena terror attack will gather in the city on Monday, September 7, as the public inquiry into the bombing finally starts.
Sir John Saunders, a retired High Court judge, will chair the Manchester Arena Inquiry, to investigate events before, during, and after the attack at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on the evening of May 22, 2017.
Suicide-bomber Salman Abedi, surrounded by the excited youngsters leaving the concert, exploded his packed rucksack nail bomb, sending thousands of nuts and bolts shredding everything in its path.
The names of the 22 innocent bystanders murdered in this inhuman attack will be read out, followed by a minute silence as the inquiry formally begins.
Abedi was known to the security services, and a senior MI5 officer, who will remain named as witness J, is expected to give evidence to the inquiry later this year.
The inquiry is being held with unprecedented arrangements to ensure social distancing is observed by the families of those tragically lost, their lawyers, and others representing public bodies, witnesses, and the media.
The main hearings will take place in a room specially converted from two courtrooms within the Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court building in the centre of Manchester.
Sir John Saunders will begin proceedings by formally opening the inquiry, before Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, reads the names of the 22 victims, followed by the minute silence.
Over the following three days, Mr Greaney will set out the evidence to be heard and summarise the key issues to be considered during the inquiry, expected to run into spring 2021.
Background evidence and personality portraits, where families of those murdered speak about their loved ones, will begin on Thursday, September 10.
The inquiry is divided into 17 chapters to cover topics including the victims, the background and radicalisation of Salman Abedi, the response of the emergency services on the night, the planning of the attack, and whether what the security services and police knew about Salman Abedi could have prevented the attack altogether.
Some evidence, involving information judged to be of potential use to terrorists, is subject to restriction orders, and those hearings will be closed to the public.
The most sensitive evidence is likely to be heard at closed hearings, with both press and public excluded because of the risk to national security.
A Live-Stream of proceedings will be broadcast so members of the public can follow the hearings.