Manchester bombing’s youngest victim’s mother tells inquiry of her grief

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The mother of the youngest victim of the Manchester Arena bombing has described how she came round from a coma to find her daughter was dead.

Lisa Roussos was with her daughters Saffie-Rose, eight, and Ashlee Bromwich at the Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017.

Her husband Andrew Roussos addressed the inquiry, pleading for lessons to be learned from his daughter’s death saying: ‘Saffie’s life is not a practice exercise for the security service and emergency services.’ 

Mrs Roussos and Ashlee were rushed to hospital and lost contact with Saffie who was carried to ambulances by members of the public.

Lisa Roussos was with her daughters Saffie-Rose (left), eight, and Ashlee Bromwich (right) at the Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017.

Lisa Roussos was with her daughters Saffie-Rose (left), eight, and Ashlee Bromwich (right) at the Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017.

Mrs Roussos told the inquiry how her husband was at her bedside when she regained consciousness: ‘The day I woke up from a coma, Andrew held my hand and looked up at me. I instantly knew, Saffie has gone hasn’t she? And he replied, ‘yes’.

‘I cried and begged and pleaded with him to let me die too. I can’t look after her. I did die a little that day.’

She continued for the sake of her other children but told the inquiry in a video-recorded message: ‘I am so desperate to hold her close and smell her hair and to feel her cheek on mine. My precious baby girl.’

Her mother described Saffie as ‘gentle and shy’ but added: ‘At the same time she loved to be around people, especially friends and family.

Mrs Roussos (pictured with her daughter Saffie) and Ashlee were rushed to hospital and lost contact with Saffie who was carried to ambulances by members of the public

Mrs Roussos (pictured with her daughter Saffie) and Ashlee were rushed to hospital and lost contact with Saffie who was carried to ambulances by members of the public

‘She was a very helpful and pleasing little girl who loved to dance and make people laugh.

‘As she grew up, she became more confident and outgoing. She remained gentle and helpful, always giving us little cuddles and leaving notes of ‘I love you’ everywhere.’

Saffie looked up to her big sister Ashlee and absolutely adored Xander, crying all the way home after dropping him off for his first sleep over.

‘She could and would talk to people and have their complete attention all the time being her gentle, funny self,’ her mother said.

Armed officers at the scene of the Manchester Arena bombing. Mrs Roussos described her daughter's infectious smile and said she would 'share it often'

Armed officers at the scene of the Manchester Arena bombing. Mrs Roussos described her daughter’s infectious smile and said she would ‘share it often’ 

‘She had this amazing magnetic personality that drew people to her of all ages. I would just watch in wonder. She was special and I understood this the moment she was born.’

Mrs Roussos described her daughter’s infectious smile and said she would ‘share it often’.

‘You had to meet her to know who she was,’ her mother added. ‘She was eight years old but felt empathy and pain for others. She was clever and imaginative, bright and beautiful, funny and kind.

‘She was enthusiastic about everything. She lit up any room, she was so precious.’

Her mother described Saffie as a very energetic young girl who loved dancing and gymnastics and was constantly doing different routines.

Hashem Abedi, convicted of murder in the Manchester bombing, is seen in this police mugshot released by the Greater Manchester Police

Hashem Abedi, convicted of murder in the Manchester bombing, is seen in this police mugshot released by the Greater Manchester Police

The family talked of her backflips off the couch and how she liked climbing the lamppost outside the chip shop in Leyland and trying to break her record on her pogo stick.

‘She didn’t like people being sad and would do the best to make everyone laugh,’ her mother added.

‘She was a pure gentle beautiful soul who touched people’s hearts with her kindness and infected people with her smile

Schoolgirl, 15, killed in the Manchester Arena bombing dreamed of being a West End singer or a music teacher, inquiry is told

A 15-year-old girl killed in the Manchester Arena bombing dreamed of becoming a singer in the West End or a music teacher, the inquiry into the May 2017 attack was told.

Olivia Campbell-Hardy, from Bury, Greater Manchester, loved music and had ‘so much to give’, her mother Charlotte Hodgson told the hearing.

Known to Mrs Hodgson as Ollie, she said her daughter ‘put 100 per cent into everything she did but she always did it with a smile on her face’.

Steve Goodman, Olivia Campbell-Hardy's grandfather, shows a pendant with her face

Steve Goodman, Olivia Campbell-Hardy’s grandfather, shows a pendant with her face

Mrs Hodgson, told the inquiry about a holiday to Haven in Blackpool when Olivia was five and she entered the talent competition with her sister and a friend’s daughter. They performed a dance routine to the Tiger Club song.

‘Ollie was dead proud of herself for getting up on stage. She always said she hated being the centre of attention but I could see how much she enjoyed the limelight,’ her mother said.

In a video message played during the commemorative stage of the inquiry for the 22 victims, Mrs Hodgson said: ‘Ollie were a funny kid, she would always do things purposely to make people laugh.

‘Ollie didn’t walk into a room, she made an entrance. The door would fling open, she would stand at the doorway and she would shout ‘Bonjour!’.

‘One thing Ollie was serious about was her music and singing. That was her life. If anyone had taken that away from her, her life would have been over.

‘Music or make-up or her bed. Those were her favourite things.’

The inquiry was played two of her songs, which showed her talent, ‘On my own’ from Les Miserables and ‘There you’ll be’ by Faith Hill. 

‘Despite her love of make-up, Ollie was not a girly girl. She loved sport and she was basically a tomboy in make-up,’ her mother added.

‘Ollie had really wanted to make music her career, either as a singer on the West End or as a music teacher. It always had to be about music.

‘She told me she was going to be famous one day and get a house in New York and she said she wanted me to have a big house and a cleaner and someone to do my ironing so I could have a break.

‘Ollie had so much to give. She had her life ahead of her. With her determination she would have accomplished whatever she set out to achieve.

‘She would put 100 per cent into everything she did but she always did it with a smile on her face.’

Mrs Hodgson said her daughter made an impact on everyone she met.

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.’

She explained how her daughter ‘hated’ odd numbers and would turn the television volume to a 10 if it was on 11.

She said: ‘When she died she was given a body number, she was number five. 

‘She would have hated that, being an odd number.

‘Whoever gave her that number is surely being haunted by her.

‘Olivia is not a number. To the world she is one of the 22 angels. Not to me, she is Ollie.

‘She will never just be a number.’ 

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‘She would smile at strangers and they would smile back. The world was a joyous and happy place for Saffie with so much to offer and in turn she had so much to offer the world.

‘To say our lives are completely devastated is an understatement. Saffie completed our family.’

Saffie’s father, Andrew Roussos, was present in the hearing room and addressed the chairman, Sir John Saunders, saying: ‘With the greatest respect what we are all going through, the failures we are all listening to and the excuses we will all sit through need to stop. Enough is enough.

‘If at present, in 2020, we are still learning lessons then nothing will ever change. The biggest lesson and wake-up call should have been 7/7 and 9/11.

‘Saffie’s life is not a practice exercise for the security service and emergency services.’

Andrew told the inquiry that his daughter was a ‘free spirit’ and her parents would ‘watch in amazement and admiration at how someone at eight years old had so much charisma and confidence to become whatever she wants to be.’

‘How can I describe perfection?’ he added. ‘How do you describe heart melting love? 

‘How can I explain those big brown eyes? How can I stand here and explain to you all in words what a beautiful little girl she is?

‘It’s like the best artists got together and drew her from top to toe, with a heart so pure, so innocent, she melted people hearts.’

He said he still spoke of her in the present tense, adding: ‘I can’t accept I am standing here doing this without Saffie, it’s like having an out of body experience, it can’t be real. I am never going to accept life without Saffie.

‘She is my star, my admiration, my perfect daughter. Going out with Saffie was like magic. She captured people by just looking at them and smiling.’

Ariana Grande was Saffie’s favourite singer and her favourite song was One Last Time, her best friend told the inquiry in another video message.

Her friend, now aged 11, described how she took Saffie to her first school disco: ‘She loved it at the disco. We gave each other facial tattoos with red Sharpy [pens] and it never came off so we went to the school disco with big red blotches on our face.’

‘When she’s older I reckoned she would be a famous dancer, I don’t know why, I could just tell.

‘I miss her so, so much. Words can’t describe it. It’s not a normal day without Saffie.

A normal day with Saffie would be crazy but now a normal day for us is just calm and I don’t like it, I really don’t.

‘I have dreams of Saffie waiting for me at the school gate and I wake up and it isn’t real. I feel torn, I feel broken, and I just miss her so, so much.’  

The child’s mother said her daughter wished she had gone to the Arena with Saffie and could have got in the way and pushed her clear of the blast.

She added: ‘We do still go to concerts. (The girl) loves concerts, Saffie loved concerts. Why should a child not go to a concert? We’re not going to stop doing anything, nor would have Saff. Saff would have kept going, of course she would have … she would have made the best, THE best entertainer in the whole entire world. She loved to sing, she loved to dance.’ 

Saffie’s sister Ashlee Bromwich, said: ‘She would always be dancing, singing, spinning, doing acrobats. She was a born entertainer and I knew that for the rest of her life she would live to put a smile on everybody’s face, even a stranger.

‘Our family will never be the same. Each and everyone of us remains a spare part watching the world pass us by. I have lost the ability to feel such emotions other than grief and anger. It’s like falling down a never-ending empty pit of sadness.

‘The things that once brought us joy don’t. How can we feel joy in our lives without Saffie? She was our joy.

‘Saffie didn’t know the horrors of this world. A child should be allowed to live an innocent life. At eight years old she should have only known of love and happiness and what she could only dream to become one day. She should never have had to experience that.’

Chris Upton, the headteacher of Saffie’s school, Tarleton Community Primary School, spoke of the schoolgirl’s excitement when she told her classmates she was given a ticket to see her idol in concert for Christmas.

He said: ‘It may sound like a cliche but the world really was her oyster.’ 

The commemorative part of the hearings will conclude this week.

The public inquiry will examine the background to the attack by suicide bomber Salman Abedi and the response of the emergency services and will conclude next spring. 

After-school club manager’s death in Manchester Arena attack left the children she cared for ‘bewildered’ 

The death of an after-school club manager in the Manchester Arena attack left the children she cared for ‘bewildered’.

Mother-of-two Wendy Fawell, 50, from Otley, West Yorkshire, was a ‘nice and caring person’ who loved her job and ‘tried to mother everyone’, the public inquiry into the May 2017 bombings was told.

She was waiting to collect her daughter in the foyer of the Arena at the time of the explosion at the end of the Ariane Grande concert.

In a pen portrait of her life, her family said the huge Elvis Presley fan was ‘the life and soul of the party who had so much to live for’.

Brought up in Rawdon, Leeds, Mrs Fawell first worked with children at a pre-school nursery in Yeadon, went on to be a dinner lady and later a manager at Eye Spy out-of-school club in Guiseley, where she looked after older children.

Her family said: ‘She loved her job, she loved children and, as she was fun to be around, children warmed to her and enjoyed spending time with her.

‘Her death left all the children she cared for bewildered.

‘Wendy has always been a fun person, the life and soul of the party. She loved socialising and she loved her role of being a mum to Adam and Charlotte. She tried to mother everyone. She was just a nice and caring person that way.

‘She loved being outside and walking the dog. She was a true sun worshipper. If the sun was out then mum was out. 

‘She enjoyed reading and spending time with her family and friends. She had so much to live for and she gave so much of herself. She was the one that could be relied on.

‘How can anyone put into words the devastation of losing a loving daughter, mother and friend in such tragic, insane circumstances? The loss is indescribable. We have never felt such grief.

‘All this has left us all totally heartbroken and our lives will never be the same. 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.’

Mrs Fawell’s father Michael, who died 11 months after his daughter, never got over her death, the hearing in Manchester was told.

Her mother, Julia, said: ‘It was double heartache for me when I lost Michael. I like to think he is with her now doing what he always did – looking after her.’ 

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