Uploaded: January 2024
Richard D Hall's Bizarre Observation.


PART ONE: Clip from "Rich Planet: Manchester on Trial"

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 angle.
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 fumes.
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.
Montage image
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.

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 front page)

PAGE 117
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 mode”.
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 Duxbury.
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.”  

There 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.

(Michelle 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.

22.32    Large bang. (Explosion)
22.32     Crowds running trying to run up the stairs.
22.35    Requested for medics to the Irish Door, male with [REDACTED]
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 police.

To conclude:
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 to it.
The evidence presented to the Manchester Arena Inquiry makes no mention of it.
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.