Brother of Manchester Arena bomber Hashem Abedi is jailed for at least 55 years

The brother of the suicide bomber responsible for the deaths of 22 people may "never be freed" as a judge jailed him for at least 55 years.

Tributes left to the 22 men, women and children killed in the Manchester Arena attack in Manchester city centre

Hashem Abedi was sentenced without being present at the Old Bailey today (Thursday) for his part in the blast at the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017.

The 23-year-old refused to leave his cell again today for the second day running, after brave families yesterday addressed the court describing the impact the terror attack had had on their lives.

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It means the families have not been able to properly face and confront the brothers and tell them how the atrocity they committed has destroyed their lives forever.

Photo from Greater Manchester Police of Hashem Abedi, jailed for a minimum of 55 years for his role in the suicide bomb attack at the Ariana Grande concert

Mr Justice Jeremy Baker said he was unable to impose a whole life order, rendering Abedi jailed for the rest of his life, due to him being under the age of 21 at the time of the offence.

He was convicted in March this year of 22 counts of murder, attempted murder and plotting to cause an explosion likely to endanger life.

The court heard how he and his brother Salman Abedi - the suicide bomber who detonated the homemade explosive in the arena foyer at the end of the concert - had spent months ordering, stockpiling and transporting the deadly materials required for their murderous act, using multiple mobile phones, addresses and runaround vehicles to craft their bomb.

The brothers had joined their parents in Libya the month before the blast amid concerns the siblings were becoming radicalised.

Shrapnel that was recovered after Salman Abedi set off his bomb at the Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017

However, Salman returned to the UK on May 18. He bought the final components needed for the bomb, rented a flat in the city centre in which to build it, and carried out reconnaissance on the arena before finally executing the plot – the chilling final moments of which were caught on CCTV.

Sentencing him on Thursday afternoon, the judge said: “Although Salman Abedi was directly responsible, it was clear the defendant took an integral part in the planning.”

He added: “The motivation for them was to advance the ideology of Islamism, a matter distinct to and abhorrent to the vast majority for those who follow the Islamic faith.

“The defendant and his brother were equally culpable for the deaths and injuries caused.

Materials allegedly found in a Nissan Micra after the Manchester Arena bombing, which was shown at the Old Bailey in the court case of Hashem Abedi

“The stark reality is that these were atrocious crimes, large in their scale, deadly in their intent, and appalling in their consequences.

“The despair and desolation of the bereaved families has been palpable.”

Some families in court gasped as the sentence was passed.

The judge – who put on record his tribute to “the tremendous dignity and courage” of the families who attended court – said the 1,024 days Abedi spent remanded in custody will count towards the overall sentence.

The scene close to the Manchester Arena after the terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017

He added: “He may never be released.”

The mother of Leeds 14-year-old Sorrell Leczkowski, who died in the blast, told the court yesterday how she had had to watch her daughter die in her arms because of the Abedis' act of evil.

In her emotional statement, Samantha Leczkowski said: “Losing one of my children has killed me – I may as well be dead.”

Ian Hopkins, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, described the brothers as “cowardly” and “calculating murderers” who tried to divide society.

He said: “He (Hashem Abedi) showed that in his contempt for the court proceedings and by the end just not turning up.

“But they failed to do that because actually what that atrocity did do, as painful as it was for those that lost their loved ones and those injured, it brought everybody together.

“And it showed, it showed the world that we stood together here in Manchester in our darkest hour.

“And the fact that we’ve had this sentence and him brought to justice shows terrorists around the world, if you commit an atrocity in the UK we will do absolutely everything to make sure you stand trial here and are brought to justice.”