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Disgraced ‘homeless hero’ admits stealing from stricken victims of Manchester Arena terror attack

PUBLISHED: 13:29 03 January 2018 | UPDATED: 17:19 03 January 2018

Chris Parker, in grey hooded jumper, leaving Manchester Crown Court in September. Picture Press Association

Chris Parker, in grey hooded jumper, leaving Manchester Crown Court in September. Picture Press Association

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A homeless man who was reunited with his Norfolk mother after being 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.

Chris Parker as a teeanger. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017 Chris Parker as a teeanger. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

CCTV footage played in court showed Chris Parker wandering between stricken and dying victims left bleeding on the floor.

He repeatedly returned to Pauline Healey, whose granddaughter lay dying nearby, before leaning over her body and taking her handbag to steal her purse.

Parker, 33, pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Court to two counts of theft and one of fraud.

He pleaded not guilty to five counts relating to attempted theft of a coat and bag discarded in the chaos and the use of Mrs Healey’s bank cards in the days after the attack.

Prosecutors have not pursued these charges after his guilty pleas.

Louise Brandon, prosecuting, said: “By his pleas he’s admitted stealing items belonging to victims of the attack on the arena and using a bank card thereafter. I do not seek a trial on the remaining counts.”

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.

Judge David Hernandez remanded Parker in custody for sentence on January 30, adding a custodial sentence is “most likely”

After his arrest Parker had been remanded in custody at HMP Manchester but was unable to leave his cell because of death threats from fellow inmates.

The rough sleeper, who lived in Norwich until the age of seven, had received global acclaim and was hailed a hero after claiming to have helped comfort injured and dying victims moments after suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated his home-made device.

But CCTV footage told a different story.

The grim footage showed how he preyed on Mrs Healey, as her granddaughter Sorrell Leczkowski, 14, lay dying nearby, and stole the phone of another victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

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.”

Prosecutors said it was clear the defendant provided “some limited assistance” to people injured at the entrance to the venue’s foyer.

But it was the Crown’s case 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.

Sorrell, who was a pupil at Allerton High School in Leeds, was hoping to be an architect and wanted to study at Columbia University in New York.

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.

The defendant appears to go to the aid of one woman, crouching down as she sits up.

Police and what appear to be arena staff in hi-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, along with arena staff and 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.

He eventually leaves as more and more paramedics arrive and the area becomes strewn with medical equipment.

Parker was also caught on a stairwell and comes across a random coat, picking it up to shake it to see if there are any contents in the pockets.

Parker will now miss out on more than £50,000 in public donations following his guilty pleas.

In the days after the attack a member of the public, Michael Johns, was so moved by Parker detailing his “heroic” actions he set up the appeal on GoFundMe to help the rough sleeper.

The fund, now standing at £52,539, will not now be donated to the defendant.

A spokesman said: “GoFundMe is in full control of the funds donated. All donors are protected by the GoFundMe Guarantee which means that donations go to the right place or will be refunded. Concerned donors can contact us.”

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