Manchester victim 'has joined the choir of angels’

Singing teacher remembers student Olivia Campbell, killed in Manchester bombing

Olivia Campbell (15), one of the 22 people  killed by suicide bomber Salman Abedi. Photograph: the Manchester Evening News

Olivia Campbell (15), one of the 22 people killed by suicide bomber Salman Abedi. Photograph: the Manchester Evening News

 

Olivia Campbell loved singing. She wanted to be a music teacher one day.

“Her talent was singing. She blossomed from starting with me about 18 months ago up to this moment,” Wendy Rees, Olivia’s singing teacher, told The Irish Times, her voice trailing off with emotion.

“She absolutely loved her music. She just loved her singing and she loved going ballroom dancing. She worked hard at her music. She was just a lovely girl.”

Campbell (15) was a big fan of the US singer Ariana Grande. The schoolgirl from Bury, just north of Manchester, was one of the 22 victims killed when suicide bomber Salman Abedi (22) blew himself up outside the Manchester Arena at the end of Grande’s concert at the Manchester Arena on Monday night.

“I think he is a really big coward. I am sure other people were helping him,” said Rees.

“To do that on young people is just barbaric and senseless, killing all those beautiful young people and making little children lose their mums. It is just horrendous.”

Horrific days in Manchester

Olivia’s face, full of the vibrancy and beauty of youth, has become one of the many indelible images of these past horrific days in Manchester, and her mother one of the central figures of this tragedy.  

Not knowing what had become of her daughter, mum Charlotte did a round of TV interviews on Tuesday morning, appealing for people to help her find Olivia and to give her a phone so she could call home. Family members searched hospitals, coffee shops and bars across the city hoping to find her. 

On Wednesday morning, Charlotte Campbell broke the news on Facebook in a heartbreaking post: her daughter was confirmed as one of the dead.

“RIP my darling precious gorgeous girl Olivia Campbell taken far far too soon go sing with the angels and keep smiling, mummy loves you so much,” wrote her mother.

At an emotional vigil in Bury later that day, Charlotte implored mourners not to let the terrorists win.

“Please stay together, don’t let this beat any of us, please. Don’t let my daughter be a victim,” she said.

Carpet of flowers

Since the vigil, a carpet of flowers, cards and notes has been spreading out from the clock tower in Whitehead Gardens next to Bury Town Hall.

“I looked up to you, especially at performances in school. I am so sad and will miss you,” one of Olivia’s schoolmates wrote on a note next to a stuffed toy.

Student Megan Barlow (17) from Bolton held back tears as she looked at the tributes. Some of her friends were severely injured in the blast and have life-threatening injuries. 

“They are all traumatised by what happened. I just can’t in words express what they have seen,” she said. 

Barlow has not changed her daily routine, refusing to live in fear of terror. “We are just showing that they can’t affect us,” she said.

A few kilometres away, Brittany Bradley (17) and her mother Angela walked down Tottington’s main street, carrying flowers to lay at a large memorial outside Olivia’s school. 

Brittany went to primary school with Adam Lawler who invited Olivia to Monday’s concert. She says Olivia wasn’t even meant to go. It was a last-minute invite because Adam’s friend dropped out.

Brittany says Adam’s injuries are so grave that he doesn’t know his friend Olivia is dead yet. “He is having an operation, a critical operation today,” says Brittany, listing off the many, horrific injuries he suffered in the blast.

Brittany says she has been crying for two days. She recalled hearing the news of Olivia’s death.

“On Twitter when you searched ‘Olivia Campbell’, it just kept saying, ‘Missing.’ People were wondering if she had been found yet,” she said. 

“I refreshed it and refreshed it, and it eventually said ‘RIP’. Then I just started crying.”

Trying to understand why Abedi committed his heinous act, Brittany says it was apparently because of retribution for the killing of children in Syria.

“I don’t think there is a reason good enough,” said her mother. 

In a tribute to her student, Rees posted on Facebook the last recording she made of Olivia singing at her school, Stagecraft. “So very proud of you sweetheart. Shine like the star you are,” she wrote.

“Just make it go away now” is the last line she sings.

The teacher said it was a song that the two of them had been working on for a GCSE exam.

“She has joined the choir of angels,” said Rees. “She sang like an angel and she is in that choir.”

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