A man who is alleged to have assisted the Manchester Arena bomber came up with a “bullshit story” to dupe a friend into buying sulphuric acid, a court has heard.
Hashem Abedi, 22, is accused of helping to plot the bombing that killed 22 people on 22 May 2017 with his brother, Salman, who also died when his suicide vest exploded.
He is suspected of sourcing explosives, helping to raise funds for the attack and arranging logistics. Abedi, from Fallowfield, denies the charges.
On Thursday, the Old Bailey heard that in early 2017, the defendant called a friend to ask him to buy sulphuric acid, before sending him a WhatsApp link to the item on the online retailer Amazon.
The witness, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said Abedi, who is of Libyan heritage, told him he needed the acid for a generator at his family’s home in Libya because his brother had spilled the contents.
Despite thinking it was a “bullshit story”, he added that “at the time I didn’t want to let him down so I said yes”. He then attempted to purchase the acid, but the £76 order was declined because of a lack of funds in his account.
Jurors heard that the friend asked his father for assistance, but he described the request as “dodgy” and told his son not to buy the product, explaining that acid could be used in the manufacture of explosives.
A series of calls and texts to the witness’s phone between 14 and 29 March 2017, attributed to Abedi and his brother, Salman, were then shown to the court. When asked why they had gone unanswered by Duncan Penny QC, prosecuting, the witness said: “I was avoiding him.”
The court also heard that a phone number registered to the defendant was used to make calls to Shield Batteries in Manchester on 3 March 2017, to enquire about buying a £300 200-amp industrial battery.
A battery was found alongside the nuts and bolts which were used as shrapnel in the foyer of the Arena in the aftermath of the attack.
Christopher Taylor, a depot manager at the company on Viaduct Street in Salford, told the court that the call was “unusual in the extreme” because batteries of such size and power were rarely sold to members of the public.
The 62kg battery is commonly used as an emergency power source in buildings such as banks. But Taylor added that the caller was “adamant” he wanted to buy it, saying it was for his “mother’s motorhome”.
“But they take batteries a third of that size. No vehicle would ever take a battery that size,” said Taylor.
The jury heard that later the same afternoon a man described as “Asian, gangly, and over six foot” between “16 to 22 years old” by Taylor’s colleague, arrived to buy the battery.
The bank account of Samia Abedi, Abedi’s mother, was used to make the purchase, and the Toyota Aygo car which the customer used has been linked to Abedi.
The case continues.