Manchester attack ‘hero’ in court for ‘theft from victims’
A homeless man hailed as a hero for coming to the aid of victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack in May appeared in court on Wednesday charged with stealing from two of them.
Chris Parker, 33, was interviewed by British media in the aftermath of the attack in which 22 people were killed, saying he had been begging outside the concert arena when the bomb went off.
A tearful Parker told the Press Association news agency at the time: “I heard a bang and within a split second I saw a white flash, then smoke and then I heard screaming.”
“It knocked me to the floor and then I got up and instead of running away my gut instinct was to run back and try and help,” he said.
“There was people lying on the floor everywhere,” he recounted, adding that a woman had died in his arms and he had come to the rescue of a little girl whose mother had been killed.
But Greater Manchester Police have accused him of stealing from the victims.
The police said Parker “has been charged with two counts of theft”, and at his preliminary hearing on Wednesday, prosecutors said he stole a purse, containing bank cards, from a grandmother.
Pauline Healey, whose 14-year-old granddaughter was killed in the blast set off by suicide bomber Salman Abedi, was injured in the attack. Her daughter was also seriously wounded.
Parker is also accused of stealing a mobile phone from a teenage girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, at the scene of the explosion.
Prosecutor Ben Southam said Parker had provided “some limited assistance” to injured people but “equally” took the opportunity to steal from them.
Parker denied the charges.
His story had touched hearts amid national mourning following the attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group.
A crowdfunding campaign for Parker raised more than £50,000 (55,000 euros, $64,000), though the money was never handed over to him.
One donor even offered to house Parker temporarily, and his estranged mother had contacted her local newspaper after the bombing, asking her son to make contact.
The bomb went off just after the end of a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande, a teen and pre-teen favourite.
Manchester Arena producers said Wednesday that they would re-open on September 9 for the first time since the attack, with a charity concert that will include Noel Gallagher from the Manchester band Oasis.
James Allen, general manager of the arena, said: “May’s events will never be forgotten, but they will not stop us — or Mancunian music fans — from coming together to enjoy live music.”
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