Manchester attack plotter Hashem Abedi refusing to participate in prison deradicalisation programme

Inside HMP Frankland: ITV News gains unprecedented access to the prison where some of the most dangerous criminals including terrorists are being held

ITV News understands that Hashem Abedi, the Manchester Arena bomb plotter, is refusing to co-operate with a deradicalisation programme in prison - and is being held at a Separation Centre away from other inmates over concerns he could radicalise other prisoners.

Our cameras were given unprecedented access to HMP Frankland in County Durham and HMP Full Sutton near York where Abedi and some of the country's most dangerous criminals are being held.

The Separation Centre at HMP Frankland, where Abedi is an inmate, is reserved for the most radical terrorists - a 'prison within a prison'. It has never been seen before on camera until now.

A typical cell in the separation centre of the prison - this is the first time cameras have been allowed inside the centre. Credit: ITV News

Five people currently occupy the separation centre. The Ministry of Justice never confirms the names of its occupants – but ITV News understands Abedi is among them.

Hashem Abedi was sentenced in August 2020 to a minimum of 55 years in jail for the murder of 22 people in the Manchester Arena bombing, helping to plan the attack in which his brother Salman detonated a bomb after an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017.

ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand discusses the difficulties of incentivising some terrorists to change behind bars

Our cameras captured the voices of inmates in the Separation Centre shouting to each other through open windows. They spoke Arabic and discussed listening to the radio and taking naps.   

Listen to the voices of inmates shouting through open windows in the Separation Centre

Outside of their cell - which consists of a bed, toilet, sink, table and chair - the Separation Centre inmates socialise with one another in their own separate facilities.

There they have space to work out, a laundry room with their own roster, kitchen space, and a shower room.

At HMP Frankland's control centre, ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand watched on CCTV one inmate, who ITV News believes to be Abedi, talking to another prisoner we believe to be a former Taliban fighter jailed for plotting terror attacks in the UK.

The inmates of the Separation Centre at HMP Frankland have facilities away from other prisoners to meet, eat and exercise. Credit: ITV News

We have learned all but one of the five men in the Separation Centre have refused to participate in the prison's deradicalisation programme. ITV News understands Abedi is among those not co-operating.

The deradicalisation of inmates within the prison walls at both HMP Frankland and HMP Full Sutton is a resource and time consuming endeavour.

Governors, psychologists, and prison imams all work with inmates to begin this process, in the hope they are rehabilitated for life on release.

22 people were killed in the Manchester Arena attack in 2017. Credit: PA/ITV News

Richard Vipond, Probation Officer and Prison Offender Manager at HMP Frankland, told ITV News of an incident with one inmate at the prison. “One particular person I was working with, we opened his cell door and he said 'I’m not going talk to you, you’re an enemy of Islam, you’re an Islamophobe, you're my enemy',” he said. “There are some people that are so entrenched in their views, in their ideologies and their beliefs that we just become a holding centre for them.” But those working within the prison walls insist they have to keep trying to rehabilitate and deradicalise prisoners.

'There are some people that are so entrenched in their views... that we just become a holding centre for them', says Richard Vipond, Probation Officer and Prison Offender Manager at HMP Frankland

Reacting to our report, Lucy Jarvis, who was injured in the bombing, told ITV News she thought it was "disgusting" that Abedi was able to "socialise with people... on the same wavelength as him".

"He doesn’t deserve any right to socialise with people, especially someone who is unfortunately on the same wavelength as him with these disgusting things," Ms Jarvis said.

Adam Lawler, who was also injured and lost his best friend Olivia Campbell-Hardy, told ITV News prisoners "should not be socialising like that". 

He added: "Both of them need separating, sending to different prisons, segregation - whatever it takes.

"Don’t let anyone with terrorist contacts socialise with other people with terrorist contacts.

"It’s plain sense. I don’t know, I didn’t think he would be allowed to socialise in prison anyway considering the nature and high-priority prisoner he is."

Locked up behind high walls of concrete, barbed wire and steel gates at HMP Frankland near Durham and HMP Full Sutton near York lie the men responsible for some of the most hideous crimes in modern British history. Abedi is housed alongside the country's most notorious terrorists, including Thomas Mair, murderer of MP Jo Cox, and the Parsons Green bomber Ahmed Hassan.

Soham murderer Ian Huntley, Milly Dowler’s killer Levi Bellfield and until his recent death the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe are the infamous names we understand are housed at the two prisons.

Levi Bellfield, Peter Sutcliffe (until his death) and Ian Huntley are housed at HMP Frankland and HMP Full Sutton.

The Ministry of Justice granted ITV News access to HMP Frankland and Full Sutton to give an insight into how they attempt to deal with, house, categorise and deradicalise prisoners convicted of offences under the Terrorism Act.

Part of the reason for allowing that access is due to the criticism the MoJ faced following the Fishmongers’ Hall attack in which convicted terrorist Usman Khan killed two people at a prisoner rehabilitation event in November 2019.

A damning inquest concluded that a string of failures by authorities led to the deaths of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt. Khan had been released from prison 11 months before the attack and was under strict licence conditions.

But weeks of testimony found there were failed chances to stop Khan’s fatal attack, missed warning signs he would commit another attack and during his time in prison he mixed and associated with high profile extremists, including soldier Lee Rigby’s killer Michael Adebowale, and hate preacher Abu Hamza.