Arena bombing inquiry chaired by former Sheffield Council chief opens for evidence

Bob Kerslake
Bob Kerslake
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An inquiry into the emergency services' response to the Manchester Arena bombing in which a Sheffield woman died has started gathering evidence - and is being chaired by a former city council chief executive.

Lord Bob Kerslake, who was also head of the civil service from 2011 to 2014, has appealed to people who were caught up in the terror attack in May to share their experiences, giving witnesses the chance to shape any future recommendations.

Kelly Brewster

Kelly Brewster

The Kerslake Arena Review is being supported by children's charity the NSPCC, which is allowing people to give evidence via its helpline. In addition, youngsters can use Childline to tell their stories.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham ordered the inquiry, which will consider the actions of police, fire service and ambulance crews during the attack at an Ariana Grande gig which claimed the lives of 22 concertgoers and parents. Kelly Brewster, aged 32, from Arbourthorne, was among the victims.

The panel, including experts in disaster response and humanitarian assistance, is not looking at whether the bomb could have been prevented - instead, it will identify what went well, and discover what lessons can be learnt to make sure responders are as well prepared as possible.

Panel members have already met some of the victims' families, and are asking them to contribute. The team will also be looking at crews’ debrief reports and conducting interviews.

Lord Kerslake, who was Sheffield Council's chief from 1997 to 2008, said: “I really want people to come forward and give us their experiences. The review needs to understand exactly what happened so that we can learn the lessons of this terrible night. We also want to be able to highlight where things went well. We want to hear about the heroes who helped people and share that too.

“To be able to do this properly we need that information and I would urge anyone who feels they have something to contribute to do so. We are looking at the response on the night, the communications and reassurance messages to people and also how the city responded in the week following. We are not looking at how this could have been prevented, others will do that through other processes, but I do want to hear from families of those who lost their lives, from people injured and anyone who was caught up in it on the night or has anything relevant to add.

“This was a terrible, terrible night and whilst we all hope we would never see anything like it again, the reality is that we have to be prepared for if it does. The review will help us ensure lessons are learned and any future response is as good as it can be. Please help me deliver the best report I can by taking part and providing information if you have it.”

The NSPCC’s Head of Helplines, John Cameron, said: “So many children and families were affected by the attack at Manchester Arena and at the NSPCC we know that experiencing something so traumatic can have a huge long-term impact on young people. Our trained staff will listen to your experiences and provide this information to the review on your behalf, so that lessons can be learned for the future.”

A report detailing official findings is expected in January, and a full report with recommendations will be submitted to Mr Burnham next March.

People with information to share are invited to contact the panel by November 10.

To contribute call 0800 919 177 between 9am and 7pm, email help@nspcc.org.uk or write to NSPCC Helpline, Weston House, 42 Curtain Road, London, EC2A 3NH.