The parents of South Tyneside sweethearts Chloe Rutherford and Liam Curry have spoken of their anger and devastation after a new report has revealed a catalogue of failings and missed opportunities to potentially stop the Manchester bomber before he unleashed his deadly attack on innocent concert goers in the city.
The much-loved couple, from South Shields, had been enjoying the Ariana Grande concert on May 22, last year, when their lives were cruelly cut short after an explosive device was detonated within Manchester Arena’s foyer as fans left the venue, killing 20 others and injuring countless others.
The death of Liam at 19, and Chloe, 17, who were described as “perfect” for each other has broken beyond repair the hearts of their parents, Mark and Lisa Rutherford and Caroline Curry their family and friends.
Now, they have learned, following the publication of a report by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) that there were a catalogue of failings and missed opportunities by security services which could have potentially stopped killer Salman Abedi before he launched his attack.
The findings were made public yesterday, 18 months since the deaths of Chloe and Liam, with the timing also causing upset to their families.
Liam’s mam Caroline Curry said: “I have lost my son due to their incompetence. That man could have been and should have been stopped and all the sorries in the world will not bring them back.
That man could have been and should have been stopped and all the sorries in the world will not bring them back.Caroline Curry
“You are not talking one failing, but a catalogue of failings and that catalogue of failings has cost me my son, my life and Zack his brother and his best friend.
“Don’t be sorry, just do your job. I am absolutely devastated.”
Chloe’s mam Lisa Rutherford said: “As far as the report is concerned, both myself and Mark are disgusted. We are absolutely devastated, and to release the report on the 22nd, exactly a year and a half since it happened, it is so insensitive.”
The report highlighted that Abedi first came to the attention of MI5 in December 2010 and was briefly investigated by the agency in 2014.
The ISC assessment said:
- Abedi visited an extremist contact in prison on more than one occasion but no follow-up action was taken by either MI5 or police;
- MI5 decided not to place travel monitoring or restrictions on Abedi, meaning he was allowed to return undetected to the UK in the days before he carried out the attack;
- MI5 systems moved too slowly after Abedi’s case had been flagged for review;
- Abedi was not at any point considered for a referral to the Prevent anti-terror scheme.
ISC chairman Dominic Grieve said: “What we can say is that there were a number of failures in the handling of Salman Abedi’s case and, while it is impossible to say whether these would have prevented the devastating attack, we have concluded that, as a result of the failings, potential opportunities to prevent it were missed.”
The deaths of Liam who was a talented cricketer and Chloe, a gifted performer, touched the hearts of those who knew them, those who had briefly met them and of strangers.
Hundreds turned out to pay their respects at a funeral service held at St Hilda’s Church in South Shields, last June.
On the first anniversary, the people of South Tyneside united in a show of support and love for their families, in a service outside South Shields Town Hall to honour the lives of two kids from South Shields, who were very much in love and whose kindness, caring nature and zest for life knew no bounds,
Mr Grieve said it was “striking” how many of the issues which arose in relation to the attacks last year had previously been raised by the committee in its reports on the 7/7 attacks and the killing of Lee Rigby.
The Conservative MP said: “We have previously made recommendations in all of these areas, yet the Government failed to act on them.”
He noted that both MI5 and counter-terror police have been “thorough in their desire to learn from past mistakes”, adding: “The lessons from last year’s tragic events must now result in real action.”
The ISC, which has access to top-level security officials and classified material, reviewed the five attacks that hit Britain last year.
In total 36 innocent people were killed. In addition to the Manchester fatalities, five victims died in the Westminster attack in March, eight at London Bridge in June, and one at Finsbury Park in the same month.
Then in September, a bomb partially exploded on a Tube train at Parsons Green, injuring 51 people.
The events last year prompted intense scrutiny of Britain’s counter-terrorism apparatus after it emerged that in a number of cases, the perpetrators had previously appeared on the radar of agencies.
Prior to his attack, Abedi had travelled to Libya.
The ISC questioned the decision not to use travel monitoring and travel restriction capabilities in the case, adding: “We recognise that there still may not have been sufficient time to identify or act on his attack planning. It would, nevertheless, have provided more of an opportunity.”
The committee also said there appeared to have been “fundamental failings” in the way police and the Home Office handled Parsons Green attacker Ahmed Hassan.
But Mr Grieve said the case was not fully examined in the assessment because the Home Office failed to provide full evidence in time despite multiple requests.
The report found that the system for regulating and reporting purchases of ingredients used to make explosives was “hopelessly out of date”, and called on the business community to exert pressure on communications firms to stop their sites being used as a “safe haven” for terrorists.
Security chiefs say they are operating at an unprecedented pace to head off the threat.
Since March last year, 17 plots have been foiled, while police and MI5 are mounting a record 700-plus live investigations.
There are around 3,000 active “subjects of interest”, plus more than 20,000 closed SOIs who have at some point featured in terrorism probes.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Following the attacks, the Government, police and MI5 undertook a series of rigorous reviews to ensure we are all doing everything we can to tackle the evolving threat of terrorism.
“As a result, we have updated our counter-terrorism strategy, introduced new legislation to allow threats to be disrupted earlier and have increased information sharing with local authorities.
“We are also ensuring technology companies play their part by stopping terrorists from exploiting their platforms.”
National head of counter-terror policing Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said: “We would like to reassure the public that ever since the attacks of last year we have sought to learn from what happened before, during and afterwards, and improve our wider operating model and ways of managing and mitigating the risk from terrorism.
“Working evermore closely with the security service and learning our lessons, we will do everything we can to reduce the chances of this happening again.”