Worlds Collide: The Manchester Bombing marks the fifth anniversary of an attack that shocked the nation to its core, featuring emotional contributions from the families of those who lost their lives. The two-part special uses new revelations to piece together the chilling timeline of that day and explores how, five years on, the truth of what happened that night is finally emerging.
On 22nd May 2017, a British-born terrorist detonated a homemade bomb in the foyer of the Manchester Arena, killing twenty-two people and wounding hundreds more. In line with the ongoing public inquiry, two special films airing across two nights on ITV and made by Label1, the makers of twice BAFTA nominated and RTS Award-winning series Hospital, reveal how multiple opportunities to stop the bomber in his tracks were tragically missed.
The films present two polarising worlds that tragically collided, one of the innocent young fans attending a concert by American pop superstar Ariana Grande and the other of a radical Islamic extremist who had grown up just miles from his eventual victims.
Providing wider context to the terror attack, the programmes delve into the role of MI5 and the emergency services, hearing directly from those there on the night and examining why decisions taken left victims helpless inside.
Revealing CCTV footage of the suicide bomber follows his steps in the days, hours and minutes leading to the attacks, as family and friends of the victims recall their stories and how one night changed their lives forever.
Episode One of Worlds Collide: The Manchester Bombing
They showcase two worlds colliding in programme one, with a countdown of the hours leading up to the bombing and a story that begins nearly a quarter of a century earlier.
They reach back more than two decades to when the bomber’s family first came to Manchester and interweave the childhood of Salman and Hashem Abedi and that of their victims, contrasting their respective upbringings.
The epsiode also reveals how the public inquiry has found that numerous opportunities were missed to stop the bomber from carrying out his attack, both on the night itself and before.
The failings of MI5 are analysed as Lord David Anderson, who the Government tasked to conduct an independent review of MI5 and counter-terror policing in the wake of the attack, states: “Some important intelligence on Abedi linking him to terrorism was missed early in 2017. MI5 interpreted that intelligence as relating to ordinary crime. With hindsight, it’s pretty obvious that that intelligence related to a developing terrorist plot.”
“It’s all about setting tripwires, trying to work out which of those former subjects of interest might be likely to re-engage. That’s the trickiest thing of all in what MI5 do”.
The programme hears the powerful, personal stories of those directly impacted by the attack. Paul Swaine, a friend of Martyn Hett, recalls, “Martyn would make you feel like you were the only person in the room. He cared, looked after people, and was going to be a friend for life.”
Episode Two of Worlds Collide: The Manchester Bombing
Programme two re-lives the final minutes and seconds in the run-up to the detonation and its aftermath, unravelling the emergency services’ response through the eyes of the victims and those first on the scene.
They intertwine the emotional testimonies of victims of the attack and the families and friends who lost their loved ones with a forensic analysis of the response to the night and examine why first responders were unable to enter the building and help victims in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
Paul Price stood just feet away from his partner Elaine, who tragically died in the explosion. Paul says: “The next thing I know is that I’m coming round in intensive care after being in a coma for nearly two weeks… I don’t remember being told that Elaine had been killed. I don’t remember being told that Gabrielle (Paul’s daughter) was fine.”
Ahead of the fifth anniversary, we hear how the survivors are rebuilding their lives and are looking to the future. Hannah, who attended the concert, says: “My goal was to be able to go to a concert again, which I was able to do and see Ariana’s next tour. I never thought I’d be able to do that again.”
Spanning multiple continents, this two-part documentary special asks: how could an attack such as this have happened? And what can we do to stop it from happening again?