A homeless man hailed as a hero after the Manchester Arena bombing has admitted stealing from victims of the attack.
Chris Parker, 33, pleaded guilty at Manchester crown court on Wednesday and was told by the judge to expect a prison sentence.
Parker admitted two counts of theft and one count of fraud. He stole a purse belonging to Pauline Healey, who was seriously injured in the blast, and then used her bank card at a McDonald’s in Manchester in the following days.
Healey’s 14-year-old granddaughter Sorrell Leczkowski died in the attack on 22 May.
Parker also admitted stealing a mobile phone belonging to a teenage girl caught up in the attack, who cannot be named.
More than £50,000 was raised for him as part of a crowdfunding effort following the attack after he told journalists he had rushed to help the victims.
But CCTV showed him rifling through Healey’s bag as her granddaughter lay dying. He never received the money raised for him.
Parker had been due to stand trial on Tuesday but failed to show up. The court heard he had not been seen since shortly after Christmas when he was discharged from Calderdale hospital in West Yorkshire. His electronic tag was found in an empty soup tin outside his bail hostel in Halifax and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Early on Wednesday morning he was found by police hiding in a loft in Halifax and was brought to court, where he changed his plea to guilty.
The court heard that Parker had failed to answer bail on a number of occasions over the past month and had sent text messages to his mother and ex-partner saying he intended to avoid going to court.
In one message he suggested he was going to commit a robbery “and go on the run”. In another he suggested he was going to hurt himself.
At earlier court hearings, Parker loudly protested his innocence and insisted he had done nothing wrong. But he had a change of heart on Wednesday.
Had his case gone to trial the jury would have seen CCTV footage of Parker at the Arena shortly after the bomb went off. Wearing a woolly hat and carrying a rucksack, he could be seen circling the victims, who were scattered across the foyer and lying in pools of blood.
At one point he appeared to kick a handbag across the floor and then go and look into it. He could also be seen looking through a coat left on a staircase.
The jury would also have seen photographs Parker took on his own mobile phone and subsequently tried to sell to the media. They included a shot of Healey next to Sorrell and Sorrell’s mother, Samantha, who was also injured. Another photograph showed what appeared to be a nail, which may have been used as shrapnel in the bomb which killed 22 people.
The family, from Leeds, had not attended the concert but had come to pick up others who had.
Parker faced eight counts in total but denied five offences, including attempting to steal a coat and a bag and using Healey’s Yorkshire Bank card at Tesco on Deansgate in Manchester and to buy a public transport ticket.
The prosecution decided to accept Parker’s three guilty pleas and not to proceed to trial on the other five counts.
Parker was widely hailed in the media as a hero in the aftermath of the bombing after he described cradling a dying woman.
The day after the bombing, Parker gave an interview to the Press Association saying he had been begging in the foyer area of the arena at the time of the blast. He said: “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.”
A total of 3,799 people pledged £52,589 for Parker in the days after the attack via a crowdfunding campaign. Michael Johns, who started the GoFundMe campaign, invited members of the public to donate money in “an effort to help one of our most vulnerable in society who showed great selflessness and courage”.
After Parker was charged, Johns told the Guardian he had yet to receive the money, and that the fund would “likely to be rolled up within a matter of hours in the event of a guilty verdict/plea”.
Parker will be sentenced on 30 January. The judge, David Hernandez, said: “A custodial sentence is most likely in this case.”
The court heard Parker has an extensive criminal record dating back to 2000 and has been convicted of offences including shoplifting, theft and criminal damage. In January 2016 he was found guilty of battery and theft from a dwelling and made the subject of a restraining order.
In July another man, Michael Popik, 24, was jailed after being caught using bank cards stolen from Healey. He did not steal the cards but was captured on CCTV using them at several outlets in the weeks following the attack.
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Nashville Christmas Morning Bomber Identified As Human Remains Found At Crime Scene, Motive Unknown
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The man believed to be responsible for the Christmas Day bombing that tore through downtown Nashville blew himself up in the explosion, and appears to have acted alone, federal officials said Sunday.
Investigators used DNA and other evidence to link the man, identified as Anthony Quinn Warner, to the mysterious explosion but said they have not determined a motive. Officials have received hundreds of tips and leads, but have concluded that no one other than Warner is believed to have been involved in the early morning explosion that damaged dozens of buildings.
“We’re still following leads, but right now there is no indication that any other persons were involved,” said Douglas Korneski, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Memphis field office. “We’ve reviewed hours of security video surrounding the recreation vehicle. We saw no other people involved.”
In publicly identifying the suspect and his fate, officials disclosed a major breakthrough in their investigation even as they acknowledged the lingering mystery behind the explosion, which took place on a holiday morning well before downtown streets were bustling with activity and was accompanied by a recorded announcement warning anyone nearby that a bomb would soon detonate.
No motive was disclosed by investigators nor was it revealed why Warner had selected the particular location for the bombing, which damaged an AT&T building and has continued to wreak havoc on cellphone service and police and hospital communications in several Southern states as the company worked to restore service.
Warner, who public records show had experience with electronics and alarms and who had also worked as a computer consultant for a Nashville realtor, had been linked to the bombing since at least Saturday when federal and local investigators converged on a home in suburban Nashville linked to him.
Federal agents could be seen looking around the property, searching the home and the backyard. A Google Maps image captured in May 2019 had shown an RV similar to the one that exploded parked in the backyard, but it was not at the property on Saturday, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene.
On Sunday morning, police formally named Warner as being under investigation.
Officials said their identification of Warner involved several key pieces of evidence, including DNA found at the explosion site. Investigators from the Tennessee Highway Patrol also recovered parts from the recreational vehicle where the bomb was detonated among the wreckage from the blast, and were able to link the vehicle identification number to an RV that was registered to Warner, officials said.
Whitmer says Trump ‘inciting’ domestic terrorism
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called out President Donald Trump on Sunday for incendiary comments he made about her during a weekend campaign rally, saying the President’s heightened rhetoric just days after authorities foiled a plot by extremists to kidnap her is “inciting this kind of domestic terrorism.”
But as Whitmer, a Democrat, pleaded with Trump to “bring down the heat,” the President’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump described the President’s calls to jail the governor as him “having fun,” during an interview with CNN on Sunday.
“You know, it’s incredibly disturbing that the President of the United States, 10 days after a plot to kidnap, put me on trial and execute me, 10 days after that was uncovered, the President is at it again and inspiring and incentivizing and inciting this kind of domestic terrorism,” Whitmer said in an interview on NBC.
“It is wrong. It’s got to end. It is dangerous, not just for me and my family, but for public servants everywhere who are doing their jobs and trying to protect their fellow Americans. People of goodwill on both sides of the aisle need to step up and call this out and bring the heat down,” she added.
During a rally Saturday in Michigan, Trump accused Whitmer, whom he has previously called “a dictator,” of unnecessarily locking down her state as she fought the coronavirus pandemic. That led his crowd to break into a chant of “Lock her up!” a little more than a week after federal authorities revealed a plot by extremists to kidnap Whitmer and overthrow the government.
Rather than condemning the derailed plot — which led to terrorism, conspiracy and weapons charges against more than a dozen men — or discouraging that kind of divisive language, Trump responded to the cheer by saying, “Lock them all up” — drawing on his authoritarian rhetoric about jailing his political opponents by adding Hillary Clinton and the Biden family into the mix.
Asked about the chants by CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union, Lara Trump, who serves as a senior adviser for the Trump campaign, downplayed the comments and dismissed concerns about their potential impact.
“Well, look, he wasn’t doing anything, I don’t think, to provoke people to threaten this woman at all,” she said, referring to Whitmer. “He was having fun at a Trump rally.”
During his rally Saturday, Trump also complained that Whitmer said publicly that his refusal to denounce White supremacists, extremists and hate groups has emboldened activists like those who allegedly planned the foiled attack against her.
“I guess they said she was threatened, right?” Trump said, seeming to doubt the specifics of the case and underplaying the violence it could have entailed. “She was threatened, and she blamed me — she blamed me, and our people were the ones that worked with her people, so let’s see what happens.”
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware called Lara Trump’s comments “troubling” during an appearance on “State of the Union” later Sunday, telling Tapper that the President’s language creates a clear contrast between him and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
“If that means that for our President ‘fun’ is fueling division and encouraging folks to say and do things that are threatening and completely inappropriate, well that’s a reminder of what kind of president we currently have, in sharp contrast to Joe Biden, someone who can and will bring our country together,” Coons said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also criticized Trump for his rally comments, saying in an interview with ABC on Sunday that he was being “irresponsible” with his rhetoric.
“The President has to realize the words of the president of the United States weigh a ton. And in that political dialogue, to inject fear tactics into it, especially (about) a woman governor and her family, is so irresponsible,” said Pelosi, a California Democrat.
London police shocked by rare fatal shooting of officer
A police officer in London died after being shot in the early hours of Friday by a man who was being detained in a rare fatal shooting of a UK police officer.
The incident occurred in the early hours of Friday at Croydon Custody Centre in south London, the city’s Metropolitan Police Service said.
Fellow officers and paramedics treated the officer at the scene, according to a police statement. However, he later died of his injuries at the hospital.
Later on Friday, the police service identified the slain officer as 54-year-old Sgt. Matt Ratana.
“This is a truly shocking incident in which one of our colleagues has lost his life in the most tragic circumstances. My heart goes out to his family, direct colleagues and friends,” said Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick.
A 23-year-old man was detained at the scene, police said. He is in hospital in a critical condition from a gunshot wound. The Metropolitan Police Service has launched a homicide investigation.
The fatal shooting of a police officer is an unusual event in the United Kingdom, where police do not routinely carry guns.
No police firearms were discharged during the incident, the police statement said.
Dick said Ratana was originally from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, and moved to London in 1989. He joined the Metropolitan Police in 1991 and was captain of his recruit training class.
According to the UK Police Roll of Honour Trust website, no officer lost his or her life in a shooting incident last year. The last Metropolitan Police officer to lose his life in a violent attack was Keith Palmer, who was fatally stabbed in a terror attack in the British capital in 2017.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the country owed a “huge debt” to police officers who risk their lives to keep the community safe.
“My deepest condolences go to the family, friends and colleagues of the police officer who was killed in Croydon last night,” he said on Twitter. “We owe a huge debt to those who risk their own lives to keep us safe.”
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was “shocked and saddened” by the news. “My thoughts today are with his family, friends, and policing colleagues in London and across the country,” she said in a statement.
Patel said she had offered her condolences to Dick and offered whatever support was needed as the shooting was investigated.
“This is a sad day for our country and another terrible reminder of how our police officers put themselves in danger each and every day to keep the rest of us safe,” she said.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “devastated” by the shooting.
“My heart goes out to the family of this brave officer, who has paid the ultimate price for helping to keep Londoners safe. Tragic incidents like this are terrible reminders of the dangers our police officers face every single day,” Khan said on Twitter.
“My thoughts are also with the entire Metropolitan Police family, who I know will be deeply mourning their colleague at this extremely difficult time. I remain in close contact with the Commissioner to offer her and our Met officers and staff my support.”