Mother of youngest victim of arena terror attack urges MI5 to admit ‘failings’

·5 min read

The mother of the youngest victim of the Manchester Arena terror attack has urged the emergency services and MI5 to admit their “failings”.

Lisa Roussos, 53, made the plea as the public inquiry into the May 22 2017 bombing that killed 22 people heard her eight-year-old daughter Saffie-Rose asked an ambulance crew: “Am I going to die?”

Saffie-Rose suffered massive blood loss from shrapnel wounds to her legs, caused by the 10.31pm explosion in the City Room foyer of the venue after an Ariana Grande concert.

She was tended to initially by a member of the public and later an off-duty nurse who, with British Transport Police officers, carried her outside on an advertising board.

A police officer had to flag down a passing ambulance and the youngster finally arrived at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital more than 50 minutes after the explosion, and was pronounced dead at 11.40pm.

Giving evidence on Monday, Mrs Roussos said: “I want to thank those who tried to help Saffie that night and for being with her.

“I also want to say to the professionals like the emergency services and MI5 that this inquiry is not about your job, your reputation or your uniform.

“We understand the sheer panic and fear you were faced with that night, but until you admit the failings how can there be a positive change?”

The inquiry has heard only three paramedics from North West Ambulance Service ever entered the City Room on the night, and one of them briefly leaned over Saffie-Rose before, seconds later, he moved on.

MI5 witnesses have given evidence in closed sessions at the inquiry, but a parliamentary committee found in 2018 that MI5 and counter-terrorism missed a number of potential opportunities to prevent the attack in their handling of bomber Salman Abedi’s case.

Ariana Grande
Saffie-Rose watched Ariana Grande in concert (PA)

Saffie-Rose’s father, Andrew Roussos, told the inquiry: “The response of the security services on this atrocity should go down in history as one of the worst failures from start to finish, and that is what we should learn from this.”

He said the family was enduring a “living nightmare”, adding: “The response on that night was shameful and inadequate.

“Everyone in that City Room was let down and the people who excuse it should feel ashamed.

“What Saffie went through I will never forgive.

“That poor little girl hung in for someone to come and help her. What she received was a bloodied advertising board and untrained people doing the best they could.”

Mrs Roussos said her daughter was “jumping for joy” when she received the ticket as a Christmas present, and she counted down the days to the concert.

Manchester Arena incident
Salman Abedi on the night he carried out the attack (GMP/PA)

On the night she said Saffie-Rose was “dancing all the way through”.

She went on: “She did not sit down once. She was so happy.”

The schoolgirl, from Leyland, Lancashire, was just five metres away from Salman Abedi as he detonated his device, as she walked across the City Room with her mother and elder sister, Ashlee Bromwich, both injured in the blast.

Mrs Roussos tearfully recalled: “I can remember Ashlee ahead of us. Saffie got my left hand and my arm was outstretched and she was like pulling me because she wanted to go outside and see her dad and (elder brother) Xander. And then the next minute…”

She said she heard a “big thud” followed by “muffled white noise” and was then lying on the floor unable to move before someone approached and asked her name.

She said “I was really breathless and all I managed to say was Saffie.

Mrs Roussos told the inquiry: “I wanted to keep my eyes open and stay alive just so I could make sure somebody was taking care of Saffie, but I felt so tired and just wanted to go to sleep.”

Mr Roussos did not know where their daughter was until the following lunchtime, on May 23, when a police officer said she had died in hospital the night before.

His wife had been airlifted to hospital and placed in an induced coma, as he was told her chances of survival were “remote”, but she awoke weeks later.

She said: “I remember waking up and Andrew was sat next to me and he held my hand. I don’t remember exactly what he said but it was something like ‘are you all right?’

“Then I thought why he is not mentioning Saffie? Because Saffie was my last thought before I went into the coma, and I just knew.”

She said at that moment she just wanted to be with her daughter and look after her.

The inquiry heard she remained at Wythenshawe Hospital until the end of August 2017, after treatment for multiple injuries to her limbs and body. She underwent numerous operations and will face more surgery in the future.

Earlier the inquiry was told that North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) paramedic Gillian Yates recalled Saffie-Rose asked her in the back of the ambulance: “Am I going to die?”

She said: “That was all Saffie-Rose said. She was not engaging in conversation with us.

“I tried to reassure her, but when people ask this question it is a bad sign as it is usually asked by people who are really ill, and the fact she was asking it concerned me greatly.”

This week the inquiry is looking into the circumstances of the death of Saffie-Rose, with a number of experts in disagreement about whether she could have survived her injuries.

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