Manchester Arena bombing inquiry: Father of youngest victim says ‘lessons should have been learned’ years before attack

·4-min read
Saffie Roussos, 8, who died in the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017
Saffie Roussos, 8, who died in the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017

The father of the youngest Manchester Arena bombing victim has told a public inquiry that “lessons should have already been learned” by authorities long before she was killed.

Eight-year-old Saffie Roussos was among 22 victims killed by Salman Abedi when he detonated a bomb among fans leaving an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017.

The public inquiry into the bombing will consider whether it could have been prevented and if there were faults in the response by emergency services.

Saffie’s father, Andrew Roussos, told Tuesday’s hearing: “What we are all going through, the failures we are all listening to and the excuses we will all sit through, needs to stop.

“Enough is enough. At present, in 2020, if we are still learning lessons, then nothing will ever change.

"The biggest lesson and wake-up call should have come from 7/7 and 9/11.

“Saffie's life is not a practice exercise for the security services or the emergency services. Lessons should have already been learnt and in place.”

The inquiry was previously told how the emergency services staged a mock terror attack at Manchester Arena months before the bombing, but that the problems identified in the drill were repeated.

There were planning and communications issues between Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and British Transport Police (BTP), and paramedics did not enter the scene of the bombing for 19 minutes, the inquiry heard.

The fire service arrived on the scene more than two hours after the blast, and members of the public had reported Abedi as suspicious to police and a security guard before he detonated the bomb.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Roussos called the lead-up to the attack and response a “shambles”, adding: “We have been waiting for over three years for this to start. It's horrible waiting to find out the answers that you need because there were so many wrongs.

”We have all heard, the first week or so, the opening statements. It's dreadful, it's so, so dreadful. There's not one thing that went right and they need addressing.“

He spoke out after family and friends delivered emotional tributes to Saffie, who had been taken to the concert by her mother as a Christmas present.

Lisa Roussos told the inquiry of the moment she woke from a coma to be told that Saffie had died in the explosion.

“Andrew held my hand and looked up at me. I instantly knew. 'Saffie has gone, hasn't she?’” she said in a video recording.

"I cried and begged and pleaded with him to let me die too. I can look after her, I cried. I did die that day. Inside I am dead.”

Tributes were also played on Tuesday to Olivia Campbell-Hardy, 15, who had wanted to be a West End singer or music teacher.

The teenager from Bury, Greater Manchester, loved music and had “so much to give”, her mother, Charlotte Hodgson, told the hearing.

She said: “Since Ollie's gone, the laughter has left. I tell a story and expect to hear her laugh, but there is just silence. I am never going to hear her laugh again.”

Six of the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack: (clockwise from top left) Elaine McIver, 43; Saffie Roussous, 8; Sorrell Leczkowski, 14; Megan Hurley, 15; Olivia Campbell-Hardy, 15; Nell Jones, 14PA
Six of the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack: (clockwise from top left) Elaine McIver, 43; Saffie Roussous, 8; Sorrell Leczkowski, 14; Megan Hurley, 15; Olivia Campbell-Hardy, 15; Nell Jones, 14PA

The family of another victim, 50-year-old Wendy Fawell, said her father never recovered from her death and died less than a year later.

The mother-of-two, from Otley in West Yorkshire, had been waiting to collect her daughter in the foyer of the arena.

“All this has left us all totally heartbroken and our lives will never be the same,” a statement from her family said.

“Every day, little things bring home the fact that she is no longer with us. This we will have to live with for the rest of our lives.“

Commemorative hearings for the victims will continue on Wednesday.

Sir John Saunders, a retired High Court judge, is leading the inquiry that is examining events before, during and after the attack.

Opening the inquiry, he said: ”If I conclude things went wrong, then I shall say so, but we are not looking for scapegoats. We are searching for the truth.“

In total, 22 victims were killed, 264 people were physically injured and 710 survivors have reported suffering from psychological trauma.

Additional reporting by PA

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