PART ONE: Clip from "Rich
Planet: Manchester on Trial"
PART TWO: ANALYSIS
After watching the Rich Planet “Manchester on Trial” film, I decided to
take a closer look at this “bizarre observation” for myself.
I started by re-watching this sequence of CCTV images many times to get
a sense of what they are showing. The quality is poor and grainy, and
they are all heavily redacted, but in my opinion, they do indeed appear
to show (quotes) “fumes of some sort”.
I wanted to pinpoint the exact location of the fumes. The images were
captured in the City Room by Camera 14 Unit 3.
This image from the same camera was recorded earlier in the evening, at
8:51 and 38 seconds. This unredacted image appears less hazy than the
later ones, and gives a good view of the whole floor area.
The three people I have labelled here are useful reference points.
Closest to the camera is Martin McGuffie who is reading a book…
Mohammad Agha is in the middle ground, standing in front of the
(quotes) “grey doors” … and furthest away is Salman Abedi who is
heading towards the McDonald’s staircase.
This is a view of the same location from a different
angle. I have marked the places where Martin McGuffie was sitting and
Mohammed Agha standing. Salman Abedi would not be visible from this
At 8 51 pm, Salman Abedi was heading towards the staircase leading up
to the closed McDonalds, as shown in this image.
To clarify the McDonalds staircase, I have delineated the steps, the
stair rail, and also the corner of the room towards the exit doors.
This gives a good indication of the floor level.
Next, I overlaid the images from later in the evening, making sure they
aligned exactly, and traced the outline of the fumes visible in each
image. I did this by eye, sticking as closely as possible to the outer
boundary of the shape, then enhanced the contrast and brightness to
make it more visible.
Then I took away the redacted CCTV image to reveal the position of the
Running through the sequence, it appears that the fumes dance around a
fixed point, waxing and waning in density. Floor level in this area is
redacted in every image, but the fumes in the air are located towards
the entrance to the McDonald’s staircase.
This image, taken at 12.33am on the 23rd May, is the only one in which
the floor is visible. The floor is a very similar colour to the fumes,
so it was difficult for me to map the shape and extent of the fumes by
eye, but I got there in the end.
Here’s the result. I have left in the edge of the redaction, and it
looks as though the point of origin is somewhere in the redacted area.
The final image was taken at five to one in the morning on 23rd May
2017. It appears to me that the position, character and colour of the
fumes has shown little variation over time.
Using this montage of all the photos from Camera 14 Unit 3 as a
background image, I mapped on the outline of the McDonalds staircase.
My guess is that the origin of the fumes is hidden by this redacted
area at floor level. (ADD ARROW)
Running the sequence again, this is how the fumes appear over time.
PART THREE: THE VIEW FROM
I wanted to find out as much as I could about what the security staff
at the arena could see on the CCTV monitors that evening. Security at
the Arena was scrutinised in detail at the Inquiry, and Volume
One of the final report was dedicated to this alone. (Show image of
Under the section “Control rooms and CCTV”, we find that there are two
control rooms: Whiskey Control and Sierra Control.
I tried to find out where these rooms are located, but this information
was deemed “sensitive” and not released to the public. As a wild guess
I’d say that Whiskey means West, and Sierra, South, but even if I’m
right, that doesn’t help much.
The Inquiry report states that Whiskey Control was staffed 24/7, and
that their cameras are spread across the whole Victoria Exchange
Complex, whereas Sierra Control was “only staffed immediately before,
during and immediately after events, a period referred to as “show
The report goes on to say that:
“The agreement within SMG was that when in show mode, Sierra Control
would take charge of the operation of the CCTV system”.
And, it is the witness evidence of staff in Sierra Control that played
the larger part at the public Inquiry.
On 22nd May 2017, there were four members of staff in Sierra Control.
These were Miriam Stone, Thomas Rigby, Michelle Ramsbottom and Jade
Miriam Stone was the duty manager in charge of the venue that night,
and she was questioned at length by the public inquiry. However, she
was not questioned about what she could see on the CCTV screens when
the incident occurred. Instead, her witness statement covering this
period of time was summarised; and, (quotes), “aspects
of the evidence” were read out by Sophie Cartwright (KC) at the
Inquiry on the 14th April 2021.
She then says this: ”The CCTV
cameras are all focused on the exits and egress points so we can
identify and monitor any problems from the control room. Suddenly, I
heard a loud noise and the vibrations from it could be physically felt.
It was difficult to work out from where the noise originated, but I
thought it was from the left of the room. Someone within the room said,
’What the fuck was that?’ It was not the sort of noise that could be
placed as normal at the venue, especially after a show had concluded.
Our initial thought was that perhaps a speaker has blown.
”I was looking at the
CCTV monitors and the ones relating to the City Rooms suddenly went
white. This wasn’t the white of static when there is no signal, but it
was obvious that something was obscuring the cameras. After a few
seconds, the screens started to clear and I realised it was white smoke
that was within the rooms.”
are a few things of interest here.
First, Miriam Stone describes a “loud noise” and “vibrations” which
were felt in the Control Room, but the exact time it happened is not
mentioned, nor even a rough estimate. This seems an important detail to
omit. It’s possible that the original statement contained this
information, but that it was edited out of the witness statement that
was read at the Inquiry.
Next, the witness says that… (quotes) “Our initial thought was
that perhaps a speaker had blown.” The word “Our” suggests that there
was some discussion with the others in the room about the cause of the
“loud noise and vibrations.”
Next, she says that she was (quotes) “looking at the CCTV monitors and
the ones relating to the City Rooms suddenly went white.”
Again, no time for this is given, so we don’t know if this happened at
the same time as the “loud noise”, or some time later.
Then she adds that “it was obvious that something was obscuring the
cameras,” and that she realised that it was white smoke when the
screens started to clear a few seconds later.
No further mention of smoke is made in the statement read by Sophie
Cartwright, so although Miriam Stone witnessed the “white smoke
starting to clear after a few seconds”, there is no record of how dense
it was at that stage, or how long it took for the view at floor level
to become visible.
Going back to the Inquiry, the witness mentions a colleague, Michelle
Ramsbottom, whose job was to monitor the Showsec radio.
”Michelle, as a radio controller, keeps a typed log of radio traffic
and questions asked and decisions made as well as who made those
decisions. I am aware that because there was so much radio traffic
after the explosion, she ceased typing and began handwriting the log as
it was a quicker way of trying to capture all the information.
Ramsbottom’s written notes.)
And here is that hand-written log. There is a sense of urgency about
it, with several crossings-out, alterations and arrows, but there are
clear time-stamps for each entry from 22.32 to 22.55.
I have transcribed the document here as accurately as possible.
Large bang. (Explosion)
22.32 Crowds running trying to run up the stairs.
22.35 Requested for medics to the Irish Door, male
22.37 Medic for a male, large laceration to the leg.
22:42 Requested for any staff from showsec that has
any first aid skills to city rooms.
22:43 (Brain) medic to the floor for a female having
a panic attack.
Re. log request again re. location of medic.
22:43 Advised medics all in city rooms, not able to
respond, if not life threatening assist out of building.
22:44 Emergency services on site.
22:45 Re. log requested for medics, again advised no
medics available due to major incident in city rooms.
22:49 Someone from back stage production ?? asking
about a meeting point.
22:50 Advised by armed police to vacate the building.
22:55 Escorted out of the building by armed police
outside the backgate.
So, a “Large Bang, brackets explosion” is logged as occurring at 22:32.
This time-stamp accords with the witness
statement of Jessica Bullough but is at odds with the officially
recorded time of 22.31.
The first request for a medic is logged at 22.35. This was to attend an
injured man at the (quotes) “Irish Door.” I have tried to find the
location of the Irish Door, but didn’t have any luck.
At 22:43, there was a request for a “medic to the floor for a female
having a panic attack”, but by this time, all the medics were
unavailable due to (quotes) “a major incident in the city rooms .”
At 22:50, the staff in Sierra Control were (quotes) “advised by armed
police to vacate the building”, and at 22:55 they were “escorted out of
the building by armed police.”
I cross-checked this with Miriam Stone’s statement read by Sophie
Cartwright at the Inquiry…
“I think 15 or 20 minutes had passed when someone came in to Sierra
Control and said that the police had said that we all needed to leave.
I packed up my laptop and, along with Tom, Sarah, Michelle and Jade, we
left Sierra Control to make our way to Whiskey Control.”
And that give the picture of what happened in Sierra Control for the 20
minutes or so before the staff were escorted from the room by armed
On the night of 22nd May 2017, a phenomenon was captured on CCTV Camera
14 Unit 3, in the City Room at Manchester arena.
It had the appearance of a plume of white smoke or fumes, and was
located close to the entrance of Mc Donalds staircase.
It persisted in the same location for over 2 hours without receding.
The density, colour and nature of the fumes varied little over time.
The nature of the CCTV images released to the public suggest that
no-one in the room at the time was concerned by it or called attention
The evidence presented to the Manchester Arena Inquiry makes no mention
So, the oddity that was captured on CCTV Camera 14 Unit 3 remains a
mystery waiting to be solved. It’s all very Bob Lazar.