Manchester Arena inquiry hears VIP ticket link to family tragedy

It was more than three years ago that 22 people were killed when suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a bomb as 14,000 fans left the Manchester Arena following an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017. Hundreds more were injured.

The public inquiry had been due to start in June, but opened last week at the Manchester Magistrates’ Court, less than a mile from where the bombing happened.

The delay allowed for the completion of the trial of Abedi's brother Hashem, who was jailed late last month for at least 55 years for his role in the 22 murders.

Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, started formal proceedings by inviting those mourning family members to present pen portraits of their loved ones so that they could ‘ensure the deceased and their families are at the centre of this process.’ The pen portraits are designed to provide a personal insight into the lives of their loved ones and how their lives were changed forever.

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

Ariana Grande closes the ‘One Love Manchester’ benefit concert at Old Trafford Cricket Ground held less than two weeks after the bombing. The benefit concert and associated Red Cross fund raised GBP10 million for victims of the attack by early June and GBP17 million by August. New York's Vulture section ranked the event as the No. 1 concert of 2017.

DAIMANI’s Two-Cents’ Worth

Perhaps this might be uncomfortable reading but it’s crucial that we don’t airbrush these tragedies out of our collective memories. On a professional level, critical lessons are there to be learned about stadium readiness, the coordination of police responsibilities and emergency services, and that the need for effective and professional security and vigilance is not often best served by selecting the lowest-cost bidder.

But even more important than that is that those killed, injured and affected by that terrible night were our customers whether in fact they actually were. These are the same people, dipping into the savings, using the credit card or borrowing money from loved ones, who we are imploring to return to Live Events when this current even-more devastating interruption finally unwinds.

We diminish ourselves if we can’t even bring ourselves to remember those who are the beginning, middle and end of the customer-facing industry that we are.

Hence The DAIMANI Journal was particularly moved to report on the story of 19-year-old Courtney Boyle, from Gateshead, in the north-east of England.

Courtney’s unnamed younger sister was such an Ariana Grande fan that she saved up all of her pocket money not just to buy a General Admission ticket but to buy a VIP Ticket. That was why Courtney was at the Manchester Arena, along with her stepfather, to pick up her sister at the end of the concert which was when the suicide bomber struck.

Reading the ‘pen portrait’ of Courtney to the inquiry, her mother Deborah Hutchinson said: ‘I can still see my daughter's smile as she left the car that night.’

Ms Hutchinson said: ‘We arrived in Manchester had lunch, and did holiday shopping as Courtney and Callum [her boyfriend] had just booked their first holiday in August to Amsterdam and she was so excited.’

Courtney kept an eye on her sister, who had saved up all her birthday pocket money for a VIP ticket, while she queued for the gig.

‘Courtney told her [sister], "ring me when you need me". Courtney loved her so much.’

She added: ‘Courtney kept in touch with [her sister] throughout the concert via text. I will never forget the laughing in the car as Courtney left to go into the foyer.’

Courtney wanted to work in the prison service as a criminal psychologist and had just taken her first exam, Ms Hutchinson told the inquiry.

She said: ‘Knowing that her life has been cruelly taken from her, she had a beautiful heart and always put others first. She had become a gorgeous woman with a caring nature to match.

Ms Hutchinson added: ‘I would give the world to see my daughter and best friend again. To hear her voice and look in her beautiful brown eyes I know that as time goes by her memory will never fade and she will always remain beautiful."

Courtney's sister added: ‘Growing up with Courtney was like growing up with a best friend. She guided all three of us, me, herself and my mam through darker times, shining a light on these situations, ensuring we kept a smile on our face.’

Katy Perry’s official YouTube channels took fans behind the scenes at the One Love Manchester concert
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Charlie Charters is a former rugby union official and sports marketing executive turned thriller writer whose debut book Bolt Action was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2010.
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