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theatre

Salford house fire family had been living under threat and security was increased before devastating attack

The family of Michelle Pearson had been living under threat before the devastating attack. Demi Pearson, 14, Brandon, eight, and sister Lacie, seven, died after a blaze broke out on Jackson Street in Walkden at 5am on Monday morning. Five people have since been arrested in connection with the fire, and police have launched a murder investigation.

The M.E.N . has learned that security had been stepped up at the mid-terrace property. Sources confirmed to the M.E.N . that the house had been target hardened to protect the family living there from attack. Measures included the fitting of an increased security device on the letterbox.

Police confirmed that the force had very recent physical contact with the family – understood to be within 24 hours of the devastating attack.

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The Manchester Evening News understands that police had been called there to a reported incident at the house at around 2am, around three hours before the blaze took hold. As well as the possibility that a flammable liquid was poured through the home s letterbox, there have also been reports that the perpetrator used scaffolding to launch the attack, although there has been been no confirmation of this by Greater Manchester Police. Chief Supt Wayne Miller confirmed at a press conference held at Swinton police station that there had been earlier incidents at the address, but refused to elaborate further or confirm the nature of the call.

As a result of the prior police contact GMP has voluntarily referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in line with procedure.

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The police chief said: There have been earlier incidents at the address and consequently a referral to the IPCC has been made. Asked whether the tragedy is being linked to organised crime, Chief Supt Miller said the force was keeping an open mind and did not comment further. He added: This is a fast moving live investigation and we have a major investigation team with scores of dedicated detectives working tirelessly.

The devastated older brother of the three young children who were killed has spoken of the moment he tried desperately to save them. Speaking about the horrific incident, Kyle Pearson told the M.E.N: I fell asleep and the next thing I knew was I could hear my mum screaming, Fire! . There was lots of smoke so I climbed out of an upstairs window.

I ve gone to get back in but a cloud of smoke hit me in the face.”

I can t get my head around it . It s disgraceful.

I tried to break the front door down and smashed a window, but I couldn t get in because of the flames and the smoke.”

Timeline of events

Monday, December 11

2am

Police were originally called to the house following an incident, around three hours before the fire service were alerted to the blaze.

4.58am

Firefighters raced to the family s mid-terrace home on Jackson Street in Walkden, Salford, after reports of a large fire.

7.26am

Early reports from the fire service said that six people were taken to hospital . The street was closed off and transport bosses warned people to avoid the area.

8.14am

Investigations into the blaze continued . Firefighters remained at the scene to monitor the house for any remaining hotspots.

12.11pm

Neighbours told the M.E.N . of their shock at what had happened . One local resident said she heard screaming and banging during the night, initially thinking it was an argument . She described the street as being quite loud .

1.41pm

Police confirmed three children died in the fire and a three-year-old girl remained in hospital in a critical condition. They also said the fire was being treated as suspicious . Officers revealed a girl, 14, a boy, eight, and a girl, seven, all passed away after the blaze broke out . The 35-year-old mother of all the children was in a serious condition in hospital, they said.

2.22pm

During a press conference at Swinton police station, detectives confirmed they had launched a murder investigation and urged a suspect to give himself up . At the briefing, Chief Superintendent Wayne Miller told reporters that seven people were in the house at the time of the fire.

He added there was an active manhunt for a suspect.

2.46pm

The first victim of the fire was named as 14-year-old Demi Pearson, a pupil at Educating Greater Manchester school Harrop Fold.

6.58pm

GMP said they had arrested a man, 23, and a woman, 20, in connection with the fire . Both were held on suspicion of murder and taken into custody for questioning.

7.58pm

Two more victims of the fire were named – Demi s younger brother Brandon, eight, and his sister Lacie, seven . Their older brother Kyle Pearson, who escaped the burning property, paid tribute to his siblings.

8.51pm

Police confirmed three further arrests . Two young men, aged 18 and 20, were held on suspicion of murder . A 24-year-old man was also detained on suspicion of assisting and offender, a GMP spokesman said .

Five people have now been arrested in connection with the fatal fire.

Anyone with any information should contact police on 0161 856 8797, alternatively call 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Hammer thug told security guard

A man who threatened a worker with a hammer at his local supermarket said I m from Salford, you best let me go after being tackled to the ground by a security guard. Damien Yates, 49, then told the guard: I will be back for you.

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The attacker was a regular shopper at the store, in Longsight, and it was inevitable he would have been identified and caught, Manchester Crown Court heard. Yates was jailed for 32 months for attempted robbery on Friday, December 8.

The trouble began when Yates burst into the Farmfoods store in Stockport Road, Longsight, on October 27, brandishing a hammer and threatened a female worker who was cleaning the floor.

The court heard the raid took place at about 9pm and he warned the woman: You better open the till. Yates then raised the hammer above his head before the worker called for help, prosecutor Nicola Carroll said. The store s quick-thinking security guard was able to wrestle Yates to the ground and disarm him, before the police were called.

As the guard pinned Yates down, the defendant said: I m from Salford, you best let me go . I will be back for you.

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Defending, Jane Miller said Yates regularly uses the shop as a customer. She said: Staff knew who he was and he was easily identified . It was inevitable he was going to be caught. Yates, of Hamilton Road, Longsight, is originally from Salford but had moved to fashion a new life for himself, Ms Miller said.

He has a history of addiction to class A drugs and has suffered from mental health problems, the judge heard.

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The court was told that Yates is remorseful and has sent what the judge described as a heartfelt letter apologising to the shop worker. Ms Miller said a possible explanation for Yates offending was that he had a criminal debt of 600 to pay. Sentencing, Recorder Mark Ainsworth said: The incident was over in a matter of seconds .

Nevertheless it would have been a very distressing incident . It left her shaken up and not feeling safe in her place of work. The judge accepted that Yates, who has an appalling record of 53 previous convictions, recognised the consequences of his actions.

He previously pleaded guilty to one count of attempted robbery.

Security services missed chances to bring in Arena bomber in months before attack, report finds

Security services missed a string of chances to bring in Salman Abedi in the months prior to the Manchester bombing, it has emerged. But he struck just days before a scheduled intelligence meeting about his activities was due to take place. An independent review into the attack concluded it is conceivable the atrocity could have been averted if the cards had fallen differently . Despite this, MI5 maintain it is ‘unlikely’ the plot could have been stopped.

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Compiled by David Anderson QC, the report brings together the results of eight internal reviews by MI5 and the police, following the wave of attacks between March and June which included the Manchester bomb. The document lays bare how in the months and weeks before the attack there were a series of missed opportunities to confront Abedi – who had been on security services radar for THREE years and suspected of links to ISIS for at least two.

We now know that MI5 received intelligence about Abedi that has turned out to be significant – but wasn t thought to be at the time . As a result, he was not under investigation at the time of the attack – and he remained a closed subject of interest . We now know he could have been placed on ports action after he travelled to Libya in April 2017 – a step which would have triggered an alert when he came to Manchester .

This would have allowed him to be questioned and searched at the airport under the Terrorism Act.

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Abedi was not placed on ports action however – and killed 22 people, injuring hundreds of others, at a Manchester Arena concert shortly after returning to the city from Libya. Describing this, the report says an opportunity was missed by MI5 to place Salman Abedi on ports action . The report says that on two occasions in 2017 MI5 came by intelligence which had its true significance been properly understood would have triggered an investigation into Abedi.

While the significance of intelligence was not fully appreciated at the time , the review concludes in retrospect , it can be seen to have been highly relevant to the planned attack . A subsequent data review of intelligence about 20,000 people identified Abedi as among a small number of people worth further examination – but Abedi struck nine days before a meeting was due to be held about this.

A meeting (arranged before the attack) was due to take place on 31 May 2017: Salman Abedi s case would have been considered, together with the others identified . The attack intervened on 22 May, it states.

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Despite these findings, the report says that it is unknowable whether an investigation would have pre-empted and thwarted Abedi s attack, adding: MI5 assesses it would not. Describing MI5 s conclusions, the author says after detailed consideration of their intelligence – the intelligence whose true significance was not appreciated – it is unlikely Abedi would have been stopped.

The report reveals for the first time that Abedi had been on security services radar for three years. In 2014 he was actively investigated by MI5 – for six months – when it was thought he might have been acting suspiciously with a second subject of interest . However, because of his limited engagement with persons of national security concern , he was classed as low risk.

The following year – in October 2015 – his case was reopened because he was suspected of contact with an Islamic State figure in Libya . The case was closed the same day when it transpired any contact had not been direct.

Read the report in full below – if you can’t view it, you can also read or download the PDF here1 :

Despite this, the decision not to re-open the investigation into Abedi in 2017, following the new intelligence, was described in the report as finely-balanced and understandable .

There is a high degree of inherent uncertainty in speculating as to what might or might not have been discovered if an investigation had been opened on the basis of the new intelligence , MI5 s internal review, detailed in the report, concluded. MI5 s review also concluded: On the clear balance of professional opinion, successful pre-emption of the gathering plot would have been unlikely.

The review – ordered by government several weeks after the May 22 attack – looked at what the intelligence services knew ahead of the Manchester bombing, as well as the earlier one at Westminster, and the ones at London Bridge and Finsbury Park in the weeks afterwards. While complimentary of both intelligence and counter-terror services in many respects, the report does suggest that Manchester s attack in particular could potentially have been averted.

It is not the purpose of the internal reviews, or of this report, to cast or apportion blame, it adds.

But though investigative actions were for the most part sound, many learning points have emerged .

It is conceivable that the Manchester attack in particular might have been averted had the cards fallen differently.

References

  1. ^ read or download the PDF here (www.gov.uk)