On 22 May, 2017, Salman Abedi walked into Manchester Arena and detonated a homemade bomb in his backpack.
The huge blast at an Ariana Grande concert killed 22 people – men, women and children aged between eight and 51 – and injured others as hundreds of nails and screws packed into the device ripped through foyer.
Salman was killed in the blast, but as police began to investigate what happened, they quickly realised he was not alone in plotting the attack.
His younger brother Hashem was in Libya when the bomb went off, but authorities moved to extradite him as they looked into the level of his involvement. He was convicted of mass murder in March, and his expected two-day sentencing got under way this week.
During Hashem’s Old Bailey trial – where a jury found him guilty of 22 counts of murder, attempted murder and plotting to cause an explosion likely to endanger life – the “dozy” teenager didn’t look like a terrorist mastermind.
One witness described him as “a normal dozy” youngster with a reputation for making “very big spliffs”, while another agreed when Hashem was compared to the Disney cartoon character Goofy.
However, Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Barraclough, who led the investigation, said it is possible Hashem was actually the senior partner in the bomb plot.
“If he hadn’t been brought to justice and tried for this offence, where would his career as a terrorist have led him?” he said to reporters.
Jurors heard that besides cannabis Hashem took tramadol and MDMA and consumed alcohol, which were disapproved of by Salman.
Hashem worked a number of cash-in-hand jobs in restaurant and takeaways, such as a delivery driver. He was described as “unreliable” and “with the wrong idea of Islam” by his boss.
In January 2017, with his parents having returned to Libya, he began ordering components for the attack.
He used the details of a relative to procure a litre of sulphuric acid and hoarded empty tins at his home in Fallowfield, Manchester, which would be used to fashion prototype components.
The following month, Hashem and Salman rented a flat in Blackley, Manchester, to stockpile bomb ingredients, and in March they began using a terrace house in Rusholme to receive deliveries of chemicals.
They set up an email, firstname.lastname@example.org, to order chemicals – the email account’s name is based on the Arabic for “to slaughter we have come”.
Their parents visited the UK in April, and the brothers used a cheap Nissan Micra to begin storing bomb-making items and vacate the two flats used to store parts and receive deliveries.
The brothers and parents left the UK for Libya that month, but Salman returned to Manchester on 18 May, having rented a flat on a short-term let in the city centre less than a month after receiving a student grant of £2,000.
He checked on the Micra, visited Manchester Arena and bought batteries, bulbs, tape, cable and a suitcase.
He spent the next few days buying more items, including a large money tin that would house the bomb, a rucksack and thousands of screws and metal nuts.
Salman committed the atrocity at 10.31pm on 22 May. Hashem was detained by a militia in Libya the next day.
When police discovered the Micra in south Manchester in June, they found acid, bags of boxes and nails, traces of explosives and Hashem’s fingerprints.
Hashem was visited in custody by British government representatives and agents from MI5 and MI6. He was eventually extradited in July 2019, when he denied involvement in the bombing and becoming radicalised in a statement to police.
He was put on trial in February 2020, and while the prosecution told the jury intricate details of the brothers’ plot, they never heard from Hashem.
He did not give evidence from the witness box and he told his barrister, Stephen Kamlish QC, not to give a closing speech in his defence – an almost unprecedented move at the Old Bailey.
Two weeks into the trial, Hashem’s appearances at the trial began to tail off, around the time prosecutors read out the names of the brothers’ 22 victims, the injuries caused, and the fact Salman’s body was recovered in four parts after the blast.
The former Manchester College electrics student would avoid attending, claiming he was sick and suffering from “flashbacks” and alleging a prison guard attacked him. All notions were dismissed by healthcare professionals.
He sacked his defence team and refused to leave Belmarsh prison, with the only insight to his defence case being a statement given to police when he was extradited to the UK denying his involvement in the plot.
“Had I had any idea of it, I would have reported it to my mother initially and then to other family members to prevent it from happening,” he told police.
However, despite also telling officers he wanted to help the investigation, he would offer “no comment” replies.
The Old Bailey jury unanimously convicted him of mass murder in March.
Speaking ahead of Hashem’s sentencing, Figen Murray, whose 29-year-old son Martyn Hett was among the victims, said it would not bring closure.
“We as families have a life sentence – ours is until the end of days,” she said.
“As a mum, losing a child is the ultimate life sentence.”
The sentencing continues.