The Manchester Arena bomber behaved like an abusive parent towards his younger brother who helped him build the explosive device, a friend has told the inquiry.
Salman Abedi, the bomber, was living with his younger brother, Hashem, in the family home in Fallowfield, South Manchester, after their parents returned to Libya.
The friend refused to buy sulphuric acid for Hashem after being told by his father it was “dodgy” and could be used for bomb-making.
“We were 20 years old, 19 years old, and the last thing I thought this guy was going to do was that, you know,” the friend said. “Obviously I’m wrong.”
The friend, who cannot be named, got to know Hashem through a cousin in Manchester in May 2015, two years before the bombing.
He described him as a “good close friend” and would visit from Northampton to smoke cannabis, drink alcohol, go out to parties, and try to meet girls.
The pair spent the summer of 2015 on the beach in Libya, smoking drugs and doing “what lads do”, he said.
Salman was much more religious and did not approve of the friend, considering him a “bad influence” on his brother.
After Salman and Hashem returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia together to attend the hajj pilgrimage in October, he had changed.
On a visit to Manchester in January, Hashem was “more into Islam and what not and he just changed”, the friend said.
“[He was] very, very devout, very religious. He would text me to remind me to pray. He said that my life wasn’t very well and I should change. That’s what he was trying to get me to do.”
Duncan Atkinson QC, for the victims’ families, asked: “He didn’t want anything to do with you unless you changed your ways too?”
“That’s true,” the friend said.
“He wore a chemise, did not cut his hair and would tell people like you, you ought to be praying more often, you needed to change because if the world ended tomorrow, god wouldn’t forgive you?”
“That’s correct,” the friend said.
Despite this, in October 2016, Hashem joined a group of friends on a trip to Amsterdam to party and smoke cannabis.
“That was the strangest I seen him, something was up with him,” the friend told the inquiry.
“He was like depressed. He did weird things like smoke weed and then go home and pray and ask for forgiveness.
“Something was very strange but I couldn’t work out what it was. I just thought he’d get over what it was. He was acting strange, he wasn’t Hashem like I knew.”
Another party took place in a flat in Hyde Park in February 2017, three months before the bombing.
“That was very strange as well. He would chill with us and then try getting us to pray with him. Something was up with him, he was acting strange not like he usually was,” the friend said.
Mr Atkinson asked: “It seemed to you like he was trying to forget reality?”
“Yes,” the friend said. “I thought maybe his brother was abusing him or something.”
Hashem had been working for a property company in Germany but resigned to return home to Manchester and was working as a delivery driver for a takeaway in Stockport.
Hashem was taking “a lot” of drugs but “he never gave any clue about what they were doing and where they were going”, the friend said.
“It was odd because he went back to drug taking and he was still like trying to be very religious and pray on time,” the friend said.
Afterwards, he said he believed Hashem was taking drugs to forget about what his brother was about to do.
“After everything happened and putting stuff together, that was all that I could think of, taking drugs to not have a clear brain.”
Back at home in Northampton, the friend had a call from Hashem talking about a problem.
He told the inquiry Hashem asked him to buy acid to fix a generator in Libya.
The friend set up an Amazon account to order the chemical before realising he did not have the money, and added: “I went and asked my dad to lend me £70 and he asked me what it was for and I had to show him what it was and my dad said, ‘no’.”
Sophie Cartwright, for the inquiry, asked: “Did your father say that the sulphuric could be used to make homemade explosives?”
“Yes,” the friend said. “My reaction was obviously I don’t want to do it, I don’t want to be involved in… I just listened to my father.”
Source: Read Full Article