Manchester Arena Inquiry: Relatives present ‘pen portraits’


The 22 victims of the Manchester Arena bombing

image copyrightFamily handouts

image captionThe bomb was detonated at the end of an Ariana Grande concert, killing 22 people

Bereaved families whose loved ones were killed in the Manchester Arena attack have shared their heartache as the inquiry heads into its second week.

The father of Martyn Hett was the first to present a “pen portrait” of his son, whose “memory will shine brightly”.

The portraits will give each family the chance to present a personal insight into the lives of those who died.

Twenty-two people were killed when Salman Abedi detonated a bomb as 14,000 fans left the arena in May 2017.

The inquiry comes more than three years after the bombing at the end of an Ariana Grande concert, which left hundreds more injured.

  • What is the Manchester Arena inquiry?

It was due to start in June, but was delayed by the trial of Abedi’s brother Hashem, who was jailed for at least 55 years for 22 murders on 20 August.

The inquiry is being held at Manchester Magistrates’ Court, less than a mile away from where the bombing happened.

The “pen portraits” will be provided by family members, or others on their behalf, reading out witness statements and playing music and videos to remember those who died.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionTributes were left in in St Ann’s Square in Manchester city centre in the wake of the bombing

Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, said they would “ensure the deceased and their families are at the centre of this process”.

“Each ‘pen portrait’ is deeply affecting. The experience will be moving and distressing… and exceptionally difficult for the families,” he added.

During the first “pen portrait”, the inquiry heard a moving testimony from Mr Hett’s father Paul.

“How would I describe Martyn’s personality in one simple word? Fun. He had the most wicked sense of humour,” Mr Hett said.

The 29-year-old, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, “lit up everyone around him”, his father added.

image copyrightFamily handout
image captionMartyn Hett, pictured centre, was “so vibrant, so full of energy”
The family of John Atkinson, 28, from Radcliffe in Bury, told the public inquiry he had a “massively addictive personality” and his “smile would light the room up”.

“He loved everyone and everyone loved him,” his parents Kevan and Daryl said.

“He was the centre of our world.”

image copyrightManchester Arena Inquiry
image caption“He was the centre of our world,” said John Atkinson’s parents
Eilidh MacLeod, 14, from the Isle of Barra, was described as a “bundle of fun” with “perfect quips, one-liners and an infectious laugh”.

The teenager, who loved playing the bagpipes, was “growing into a lovely young woman with this fantastic gift she was able to express herself with”, her father Roderick said.

Her former primary school teacher Michelle McLean said: “The whole island community misses her – as her teacher she taught me to be a better person.”

image copyrightFamily handout
image captionEilidh MacLeod was described as a “bundle of fun”
Sorrell Leczkowski was “hungry for knowledge” and dreamed of studying in New York to fulfil her ambition to become an architect, her mother told the inquiry.

The 14-year-old had gone to the Manchester Arena with her family to collect her sister who was at the concert.

Her mother Samantha and grandmother Pauline were both seriously injured.

image copyrightFamily handout
image captionSorrell Leczkowski dreamed of studying in New York

The commemorative hearings are expected to conclude on 23 September.

The inquiry was set up to examine the background to the attack and the response of the emergency services.

Its chairman, Sir John Saunders, will make a report and recommendations once all the evidence has been heard, which is expected to take up to six months.

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