A mother today described Manchester Arena suicide bomber Salman Abedi as walking with a ‘swagger’ just before killing 22 innocent bystanders and injuring hundreds of others.
Suzanne Atkins was desperate to find her daughter on the floor of the City Room, where victims lay dead or dying after the May 2017 blast, the public inquiry into the terror attack revealed.
Mrs. Atkins had gone to pick up her daughter and her daughter’s girlfriend, who had attended their first concert to see Ariana Grande perform.
The college teacher had seen Abedi pass within three feet of her, with a large backpack on his back, “walking purposefully” as he walked down the hall.
Abedi was surrounded by parents waiting for the throng of young people to emerge at the end of the performance. Ms. Atkins said in a statement read to police to the investigation: ‘He was bent over and had a little swagger.
Salman Abedi (pictured) was described as walking with a ‘swagger’ just before killing 22 innocent bystanders
A CCTV photo of Salman Abedi at Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017, just before detonating his bomb
He looked out of place among a crowd of young girls and families while everyone else looked around and at the exits. He just seemed to be different and to have a purpose. Knowing where he was going. I only saw him once for a few seconds as I watched the audience, but he stayed in my head. ‘
Seconds later, Manchester-born Abedi, 22, detonated his device, sending thousands of nuts and bolts flying around, with shrapnel tearing everything in his path.
Ms. Atkins gave her testimony and continued, ‘I think the bang came first, I only saw orange in my field of vision, so it felt like a flash. It felt like something had rolled inside me but was burning in my legs. ‘
Mrs. Atkins’ then went on ‘autopilot’ to find her daughter and her boyfriend, but amid the chaos was told that ‘another’ had gone off. She added: ‘I assumed that was at the Arena so I thought that was the worst.
Scenes near Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017 after the terror attack at the end of an Ariana Grande concert
Police at the site of Manchester Arena terror attack in May 2017 that killed 22 people and injured hundreds
“I thought what happened in the Arena must have been bigger. I thought I might have lost my daughter and her friend so I had to go in. I felt the need to come in.
“I saw what had happened and then realized what had happened.”
She tried to enter the Arena to find her daughter, but was blocked by a flight attendant at the doors. ‘And I couldn’t get in, so I started looking where I could in the City Room. I searched the floor. ‘
Ms. Atkins said she also tried to contact her daughter by phone. “It just kept ringing, over and over,” she said, then felt an “intense and almost surreal sense of relief” when she finally got through.
“She eventually did,” she replied, “she said. ‘I just heard this soft voice – she has a very soft voice. I think I just asked her if she was okay, and then the phone went off again. ‘
Charred clothes recovered after Abedi fired his bomb at Manchester Arena during the terror attack on May 22, 2017
Shrapnel recovered after Abedi fired his bomb after Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on May 22
Also today, the investigation learned that a teenager and her best friend were injured in the terror attack when they passed just yards from the suicide bomber when he detonated his device.
Amelia “Millie” Tomlinson teamed up with Lucy Jarvis when the delighted teens left the concert.
Salman Abedi stood a few yards away, surrounded by parents, waiting for the crowds of youth to enter the hall’s City Room foyer.
Both teens, then 17 years old, were injured when a smiling Abedi detonated his device, tearing nuts and bolts apart and killing 22 bystanders in the terror attack.
Mrs. Tomlinson, now 21 years old, from Wigan, told the Manchester public inquiry: ‘When we came down the hall I remember having my phone because I was going to call my mother.
An image from Greater Manchester Police showing where pieces of shrapnel ended up after Abedi detonated his bomb in May 2017
The kitchen-lounge in the Granby House apartment in Manchester where Abedi lived for the four days before the bombing
‘Suddenly I felt like this warm air flow was hitting me and I felt really warm, like jumping into a pool. I felt my body being thrown around. I remember going into a ball. I had my eyes closed.
‘I opened my eyes, I could see a lot of smoke. I could see a lot of people on the ground, like the victims, on the ground. I could see that Lucy and I had been blown apart.
We both looked at each other and knew something really bad had happened and we managed to get up and run back through the doors. I remember feeling like I couldn’t run, but I didn’t know why.
“A bolt had gone through my shoe and foot. I could see Lucy was seriously injured. At that moment Lucy sat down on the stairs and said she couldn’t walk and was going to die, and I could see she was losing a lot of blood. ‘
Mourners watch tribute at Manchester’s St Ann’s Square on May 29, 2017, one week after the Manchester Arena attack
A woman places a candle on a stone in St Ann’s Square in Manchester on May 29, 2017, a week after the attack in the city
Mrs. Tomlinson had also been injured to her fingers and struggled to work on the phone, but managed to call Mrs. Jarvis’s mother to say a bombing had taken place.
She and Ms. Jarvis had grown up watching Grande on children’s TV channel Nickelodeon and were excited to see her perform, listen to her albums while they spent hours picking out outfits and getting them ready, she told the investigation.
Mrs. Jarvis was taken from the Arena by emergency responders, and Robert MacFarlane, a first aid worker who worked for the Arena, wrapped Mrs. Tomlinson’s injured fingers in the air and took her outside.
The street was in “ chaos, ” Ms. Tomlinson said, but she managed to meet her mother and grandmother, who drove them to the event, and Mr. MacFarlane drove them all to Manchester Royal Infirmary so the injured teen could be treated.
Mrs. Jarvis will testify via video link later in the day. The public inquiry, which is being held in Manchester, looks at the events surrounding the bombing by Abedi on May 22, 2017. The hearing continues.