Manchester Arena bombing's homeless 'hero' admits stealing from stricken victims

Chris Parker
Chris Parker
Share this article

A homeless man who was hailed a hero in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing has admitted stealing a purse and mobile phone from stricken victims of the attack.

Homeless "hero" to zero Chris Parker has been locked up and lost £50,000 from well-wishers after admitting stealing from stricken victims of the Manchester Arena bombing.

The rough-sleeper garnered global acclaim after claiming to have helped comfort dying and injured victims moments after Salman Abedi's suicide bombing killed 22 and left scores injured on May 22 last year.

But horrific CCTV footage played in court showed the 33-year-old leaning over the body of injured survivor Pauline Healey to steal her purse as her 14-year-old granddaughter lay dying.

Parker also snatched the mobile phone of a teenager and within hours was using Mrs Healey's bank cards at a local McDonald's.

The defendant received death threats from other inmates at HMP Manchester after his arrest last year and was later granted bail, but did not turn up for his trial on Tuesday.

Overnight he was found by police hiding in the loft of a house in Halifax, and was taken to Manchester Crown Court on Wednesday where he admitted two counts of theft and one count of fraud.

John Broadley, defending, asked for pre-sentence reports on Parker, who has a string of previous convictions, dating from 2000 to February of last year, including the theft of a purse from a woman and numerous shoplifting and burglary offences.

Mr Broadley said: "He's tendered these pleas and all he can do in the circumstances is first of all plead guilty and apologise for his appalling behaviour that evening."

Judge David Hernandez remanded Parker in custody for sentence on January 30, adding a custodial sentence was "most likely".

Grim CCTV footage showed how he preyed on Mrs Healey, as her granddaughter Sorrell Leczkowski lay dying nearby, and stole the phone of another teenage victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Prosecutors said it was clear the defendant provided "some limited assistance" but that he "equally" took the opportunity to commit the thefts in the immediate aftermath of the atrocity.

Mrs Healey, along with her granddaughter and Samantha, Sorrell's mother, had gone to the foyer of the Manchester Arena to meet friends and had not themselves attended the Ariana Grande concert.

The grandmother later underwent 15 hours of surgery to remove shrapnel from her body and also suffered multiple compound fractures to her arms and legs, while Sorrell's mother was also seriously injured.

In a 20-minute compilation of CCTV footage from the arena, too graphic to be released, the defendant is seen going in and out of the foyer, walking around various parts of the entrance.

The footage begins with scenes of crowds leaving the arena visibly flinching as the bomb detonates, and a second later terrified concert-goers putting their hands to their mouths and running.

Moments later people gingerly return to the smoke-logged bomb scene and though the footage is pixelated, it is clear there are bodies strewn across the area.

There are also pools of blood and what appear to be body parts and pixelated mounds of people, not moving.

Parker, carrying a rucksack on his back and wearing a woolly cap, is seen walking around, clearly agitated, either looking at his phone or with it to his ear, as dazed people wander around.

Police and what appear to be arena staff in high-visibility jackets then appear before more police arrive en masse.

He also speaks to one bewildered young girl, comforting her along with a police officer. The youngster's mother is believed to be one of the fatalities.

Armed police arrive, with paramedics, the floor showing signs of bloody footprints, as they get to work tending to the injured.

Parker walks out of the foyer before returning to Mrs Healey, with two bodies on the floor beside her, reaching over her to take her bag, as paramedics and police work on resuscitating victims close by.

A public appeal on GoFundMe set up after the attack raised £52,539. He will not now receive the money.