BBC documentary tells of the struggles faced by those who witnessed the Manchester Arena terror attack

A groundbreaking documentary on the Manchester Arena terror attack has told the stories of victims and the Lancashire counsellors who helped them to live with the memories.

Wednesday, 16th May 2018, 1:38 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th May 2018, 1:46 pm
Emergency services at Manchester Arena after reports of an explosion at the venue during an Ariana Grande gig. Photo credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

It featured a young girl from Garstang who was traumatised by the suicide bomb attack and how she slowly learned to cope with the events of the night.

Erin McNeil, who is 11-years-old, walked through the foyer where the bomb exploded.

Her story, as well as what happened to two other young girls, featured in a programme called Manchester Bomb: Our Story, last night on BBC One.

A still from the BBC's Manchester Bomb: Our Story, featuring Lancashire girl Erin. Photo: Richard Ansett/BBC

The documentary explores the lasting psychological impact and how their lives are changed forever.

Erin witnessed the aftermath of the bomb and was unable to talk about what she saw, battling with flashbacks and terrified of leaving the house.

Unable to help her, her mum reached out to a scheme called Nest Lancashire, which was set up to support young people affected by crime.

Working with case worker Tracey Baker, Erin (right)was then able to start her recovery process. Speaking to the Post Tracey, 57, said: “I started working with Erin in November last year.

Michelle Kiss, Georgina Callander, Saffie Roussos and Jane Tweddle

“It was a self-referral from her mum. She had realised that Erin was really struggling but she didn’t know what to do and where to get support.

“Erin was finding the whole event extremely stressful to talk about and was refusing to speak about what she had seen and heard.

“She could talk about running out of the building and holding mum’s hand but there was a block on what she could talk about.”

The BBC programme shows Erin talking to Tracey, a Nest caseworker covering Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre.

Infographic: The police investigation so far

Tracey said: “They showed me talking to Erin on a one to one basis.

“She didn’t want to say too much in front of the cameras so we rehearsed what to say beforehand a little bit.

“We talked about how since the attack she has divided her life into two compartments - before the concert and after the concert.

I also talk about Erin and how she had completely blocked the incident out of her life.

“She has managed to get past that now and she’s is in a much much better place.”

Erin has now stopped seeing Tracey as she is now able to access Cognitive Behavioural Therapy from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health team (CAMS) at the NHS.

The programme also follows 18-year-old Amelia from Wigan who was standing six feet away from the suicide bomber at the time of the explosion and Louise, aged 20, whose brother Martyn Hett, from Stockport, was killed in the blast.

Lancashire police and crime commissioner Clive Grunshaw, who established Nest Lancashire, said: “There are several moving accounts from young people and their families who have been affected by the Manchester Arena attack and I am proud to see Nest Lancashire case worker Tracey as part of this documentary.

“Having recently met a mother whose daughter was caught up in the attack, I know how important the support Nest can offer is to families here in Lancashire and I would urge anyone affected to contact the service.”

l Manchester Bomb: Our Story is also available on BBC Iplayer.

l Call Nest Lancashire on 0300 111 0323.

Lancashire’s victims

Just as throngs of people were beginning to leave Ariana Grande’s concert at Manchester Arena a suicide bomber detonated a home-made bomb.

Scores of people were injured and as time went on it emerged that 22 people had been killed by the blast.

Georgina Callander, from Hesketh Bank, was named as the first victim at 18-years-old. She was a student at Runshaw College, and was on the cusp of finishing the second year of her health and social care course.

The youngest victim to be named was eight-year-old Saffie Roussos, from Leyland. She was a pupil at Tarleton Community Primary School.

Her parents owned fish and chip shop The Plaice in Hough Lane.

Michelle Kiss, 45, from Whalley in the Ribble Valley and Jane Tweddle, 51, a school receptionist from Blackpool were also killed in the attack.

Both women were mothers to three children.

22-year-old Salman Abedi, of Libyan origin, was named by police as the suicide bomber shortly after the attack.

Police: It’s a murder inquiry

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson said: “The events of May 22 will forever be etched into the history of Manchester.

“The attack caused huge loss of life and devastated the lives of so many. We knew quickly that 22 people had been murdered and we now know that there are over 800 people with physical and deep psychological injuries from the attack. Their lives have been altered forever.

“Over the past year, the investigation team has worked hard to support those affected and we are consistently moved by the grace and dignity they show in trying to repair their lives. Of course for many, the loss is too great for them to ever make a full recovery from this terrible event.

“After the initial surge of officers we had during the first few weeks, we have since sustained a team of around 100 investigators working full-time on this investigation.

They have been interviewing witnesses, painstakingly working through thousands of hours of CCTV, considering forensic material and piecing together evidence.

“I want to be really clear that this is a murder investigation.

We have applied for, and been granted, a warrant of arrest for the brother of Salman Abedi, Hashem Abedi.

The warrant was issued by a Manchester Court to produce Hashem Abedi at Westminster Magistrates Court, which is standard procedure in terrorism and extradition cases.

In addition, extradition has been applied for.

“It is because of this that it is really difficult to provide any further detail. Firstly we must respect the Libyan legal process and we are very grateful to them for considering our request.

Secondly, it is vital that the court process is respected in this country and especially the right to a fair trial. It is because of this that we cannot comment on any specific detail of the case.

When we can say more, we will of course do so. In the meantime, we will continue to gather evidence, searching for as much detail about what happened and evidence of anyone responsible whilst supporting the families, many of whom who are going through unimaginable pain.’