Homeless man jailed for stealing from victims of Manchester bombing
Chris Parker stole from injured people ‘at a time when others were either dead or dying’
Chris Parker has been jailed at Manchester Crown Court for four years and three months after he stole from victims of the Manchester Arena bombing. Photograph: Greater Manchester Police/PA Wire
A homeless man who claimed to have helped victims of the Manchester Arena bombing but stole from those lying seriously injured has been jailed by a judge who told him: “You were not the hero that you pretended to be. You were a common thief.”
Chris Parker (33) was jailed for four years and three months at Manchester Crown Court after Judge David Hernandez watched graphic CCTV footage of him rummaging through personal possessions among the dead and the seriously injured.
Judge Hernandez said: “You stole from people who were seriously injured at a time when others were either dead or dying.
“It is hard to contemplate a more reprehensible set of circumstances.”
He told Parker: “The true spirit of Manchester was displayed by the actions of ordinary citizens of Manchester as well as the emergency services who went to the assistance of those injured that night.
“You represented yourself as a hero.
“Sadly, you were not the hero that you pretended to be. You were a common thief.”
The judge said: “Your behaviour has been viewed as repugnant by the community as a whole.”
Parker showed no emotion as he was sentenced after admitting theft and fraud at a previous hearing.
He was hailed a hero after the tragedy on May 22nd last year as he appeared on TV talking about how he helped those caught up in the blast.
Parts of a victim personal statement were read to the court from the mother of a 14-year-old girl whose phone was taken by Parker.
The girl was seriously injured in the blast.
It said: “I was just astounded as I thought that I had seen the worst thing that a person could do to others and this was yet another blow as to how despicable people could be.”
Louise Brandon, prosecuting, said Parker picked up the phone belonging to the teenager who had been holding the handset as the bomb went off.
Miss Brandon said the phone rang a number of times as people were trying to contact the girl and Parker terminated one call with an automatic return text message which read: “Sorry I can’t talk right now.”
The prosecutor said of the mother’s personal statement: “Upon finding (the girl), she describes how her daughter was upset at the loss of her telephone because she was unable to contact family and friends to let them know how she was.”
The judge also banned Parker from central Manchester for 10 years.
As well as the mobile phone belonging to the teenage girl, who cannot be named, Parker admitted stealing a purse and its contents from Pauline Healey as she lay seriously injured next to her daughter and 14-year-old granddaughter Sorrell Leczkowski, who did not survive.
Miss Brandon said: “Mrs Healey described the initial sense of relief when the defendant approached, believing that he was there to help the seriously injured and that he had realised that her family were in desperate need of help.
“Mrs Healey explained that the defendant asked where her mobile telephone was, removed her bag from her shoulder and rummaged through it.”
The prosecutor said Parker answered the phone when Mrs Healey’s husband rang and then passed the telephone to her.
“She saw the defendant walk away with her handbag, returning with it a short while later but her purse was no longer inside,” Miss Brandon said.
Over the next few days, Parker used Mrs Healey’s debit card to pay for meals at McDonald’s totalling £12.
The prosecutor said Mrs Healey was distressed that Parker took a photograph of her as she lay with her injured family.
Miss Brandon told the judge: “Unlike others who were present, he (Parker) did not enter the arena with the sole intention of helping those who were so desperately in need of assistance.
“Contrary to the impression that he created in the media on the night of the bombing and in the days that followed this tragedy, he was no hero.”
Miss Brandon said: “There are periods during the time that he was inside the arena where, the prosecution accepts, he was seemingly offering some comfort to the victims.
“The court may conclude that it would have been quite impossible for anybody to walk past all of those in need that night without offering some assistance, whatever their reason was for being in the arena.”
Miss Brandon said: “As the tragedy unfolded around him, when the vast majority of those who were in the arena with him were trying to save lives and care for the injured and lost, the defendant was focused on seeking to take advantage of the situation.
“The CCTV shows the defendant, in the 45 minutes that he was in the arena, taking the opportunities that presented themselves to him to take photographs and to look for and, where possible, take valuable items, such as purses and mobile telephones from the bags of the victims or from the floor, where they had landed when their owners had lost them as the bomb was activated.”
Miss Brandon showed the judge four pictures Parker took in the foyer which, she said, he later sold for £100.
Parker claimed to have helped some of those injured in the attack, and more than £50,000 was raised by the public to help the rough sleeper.
He will not receive the money raised for him through the public appeal on GoFundMe. It will instead go back to the donors.