Reaction as Manchester Arena bomb plotter sentenced to minimum of 55 years in prison

Credit: Greater Manchester Police/PA

Families of the Manchester Arena bomb victims said justice had prevailed as the "cowardly" mastermind of the atrocity hid in his cell.

The loved ones of the 22 men, women and children killed on May 22 2017 wept and embraced as Hashem Abedi was jailed for at least 55 years at the Old Bailey.

While Abedi refused to attend his sentencing, dozens of family members either sat in Court Two of the Old Bailey or watched over live-link from Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow.

22 people were killed in the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017. Credit: ITV News/Family Photos

Figen Murray, whose son Martyn Hett was among those killed in the blast, said outside court: "Today's sentence given to Hashem Abedi signifies the end of another chapter in our lives and reaffirmed to us that the British justice system is strong and fair and punishes those who break the law.

"Although our lives have been deeply affected by what happened, we can now at least put the trial behind us and mentally prepare ourselves for the public inquiry that is starting soon.

"We want to reiterate our gratitude to our amazing legal team and everyone who has supported us through the difficult times of the trial."

Fiegen Murray spoke outside of the Old Bailey. Credit: ITV News

Speaking in Manchester, Paul Hett, the father of Martyn Hett, said: "First of all we have spent two days listening to harrowing details of lives that have been shattered, not just the 22, but hundreds of lives changed forever."

Abedi is a "coward" and not even "man enough" to come to court to hear how he had affected them, Mr Hett said.

Mark Rutherford, on behalf of the families of his daughter Chloe Rutherford, 17, and Liam Curry, 19, said outside the court: "We would like to thank Mr Justice Barker for imposing the biggest sentence ever in these circumstances."

He thanked the court, the jury, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, while members of both families clutched photographs of their loved ones.

Kelly Brewester was one of the victims of the attack. Credit: Family Photo

The family of Kelly Brewster, 32, murdered in the attack, said: "His sentence will never compare to the sentence we have to live for the rest of our lives without Kelly.

"One day he will be free but we will forever be broken.

"We wish to thank the CPS, Greater Manchester Police and the family liaison officers from both GMP & South Yorkshire Police who have supported us greatly over the last 3.5 years. Our family now welcomes the start of the public inquiry next month." 

There has also been reaction from police and political leaders in Greater Manchester.

The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police said that his thoughts are with the families of the "22 precious souls" lost in the attack.

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said:

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: "Today we think first of the families who lost loved-ones and everyone whose lives were changed forever by this appalling crime. 

"We know today will be yet another difficult day for them and we will continue to support them in any we can, but we hope the fact that someone has at last been held accountable will bring a degree of comfort and resolution."

His Deputy Mayor, Bev Hughes, reminded people that support is available via the Manchester Resilience Hub.

The Prime Minister expressed his condolences for the families of the victims and the survivors of the attack on Twitter.

Abedi's minimum sentence of 55 years is the longest minimum-term ever given in a UK court.

Sentencing, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker said he would have imposed the most severe punishment, but Abedi, now 23, was under 21 at the time he orchestrated the atrocity in 2017.

The judge said the issue of whole-life sentences was a matter for Parliament to legislate rather than for judges, who are bound to sentence within the existing law.

But he said in his sentencing remarks that a whole-life order would have been a "just sentence" in the "exceptional circumstances", bearing in mind the young age of the targets attending the Ariana Grande concert and how many were killed.