Manchester Arena bomber was a ‘badly behaved’ and ‘lacklustre’ pupil, inquiry hears

His former headteacher Ian Fenn said Abedi had a “catalogue of misdemeanours, criminality and disengagement” while studying at Burnage Media Arts College, but he and his staff were not aware he ever expressed extremist views.

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Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi was a foul-mouthed thief who was “badly behaved from the start of his school career”, the public inquiry into the May 2017 bombing has heard.

His former headteacher Ian Fenn said Abedi had a “catalogue of misdemeanours, criminality and disengagement” while studying at Burnage Media Arts College, but he and his staff were not aware he ever expressed extremist views.

Close friends of Abedi, 22, initially told the school after the bombing they could not believe he was responsible as he was “a druggie who spent more time getting stoned than he did anything else”. However, they later noted he had become more religious in the two years before the terror attack.

Describing the suicide’s bomber attendance at the secondary school – now known as Burnage Academy – from January 2009 to June 2011, Mr Fenn said the only subject he thrived in was Arabic in which he gained an “A’ mark.

He said: “He was just not really engaged or interested. School was not something that really meant much to him. It’s almost like he knew he had nothing really invested in it, in common with many others – he wasn’t unique.

“The only reason I can remember him is because he stole a phone. We had just moved into our new buildings and we had really good CCTV and this was the first time we had used it and I caught him. A prefect had put a phone down on the reception table where they take their coats off and he had just gone past and swiped it and walked off with it.”

Mr Fenn, now retired, said when confronted Abedi responded with “a shrug of the shoulders” and was excluded from school four-and-half days because he showed “absolutely no remorse”.

On another occasion Abedi disrupted an English exam and when asked to report to the deputy head he said to a teacher “‘f*** off, get out of the f***ing way, f*** you”, the inquiry heard.

Two letters were sent to his father, Ramadan, explaining he had been disciplined for letting off fireworks outside school in October 2010 and being “extremely rude” to a member of staff in February 2011.

But Mr Fenn said Abedi’s behaviour was not extreme and told the inquiry: “If you were to take the worst 20 kids in his year group, he would not be in it.

“He would have been one of the least likely people of what I knew of him to do anything with meaning, even a perverse one. He never came across as somebody who was opinionated, who was driven, that had an agenda.

“He was a typically lacklustre child. He was somebody who came across as not having anything about him.”

He said he spoke to Abedi’s friends after the bombing.

He said: “They started off by saying that they couldn’t believe he had done it and he was ‘just like, you know, a druggie’. As far as they were concerned he spent more time getting stoned than he did anything else.”

They later revealed, he said, he stopped associating with people who smoked cannabis and ‘larked around’ playing football as he became more religious. He “changed”, they added, when he spent more time with Abdalraouf Abdallah, another ex-pupil at Burnage.

Convicted terrorist Abdallah, 28, has previously told the inquiry he played no part in radicalising Abedi who he had known all his life, and denied any involvement in the Arena attack.

Mr Fenn said Abedi’s younger brother, Hashem, also attended the school but did not return after he visited Libya in 2011 where the inquiry has heard he spent time with Salman and his father during the country’s uprising against Colonel Gaddafi.

He said that Hashem, jailed for life last year for assisting the bomb plot, was “more of a disruptive kind of individual” who affected lessons and was due to enter the school’s inclusion unit later in 2011.

The inquiry into the bombing that killed 22 people and injured hundreds will continue on Tuesday.