Families of Manchester Arena terror attack pour their grief out to court as Hasham Abedi refuses to leave cell for sentencing

The mother of a teenage girl who died in the Manchester Arena terror attack has told a court how losing her daughter has "killed" her, saying she "may as well be dead".

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Lisa Rutherford, mother of 17-year-old Chloe Rutherford reading her victim statement at the Old Bailey
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Lisa Rutherford, mother of 17-year-old Chloe Rutherford reading her victim statement at the Old Bailey

The impassioned and heartbreaking statement from the mother of Sorrell Leczkowski was read in court along with others from relatives of those killed by Salman Abedi on May 22, 2017.

Abedi's younger brother Hashem was found guilty by a jury in March of 22 counts of murder, attempted murder and plotting to cause an explosion likely to endanger life, after a trial heard how the Islamic State-inspired jihadi helped his brother order, collect and store materials needed for the plot.

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The 23-year-old refused to leave his cell to face the court at the Old Bailey for his sentencing today (Wednesday), despite victims' relatives bravely recounting how the brothers' actions had devastated them and changed their lives forever.

Family and friends of the Manchester bomb victims arrive at the Hilton Hotel in Manchester to watch the sentencing of Hashem Abedi via videolink

14-year-old Miss Leczkowski, from Leeds, had been attending the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester when she was killed along with 21 others.

Her mother, Samantha Leczkowski, told the court through a statement how her daughter’s “senseless death” had “devastated us all”.

She said: “Sorrell’s bedroom has been untouched since (the blast) – I cannot bring myself to alter Sorrell’s room. I find comfort from sitting in Sorrell’s bedroom and talking.

“Losing one of my children has killed me – I may as well be dead.”

Manchester Arena attack victim Kelly Brewster, from Sheffield

Survivor Claire Booth meanwhile broke down in tears as she read her victim impact statement.

Her sister, Kelly Brewster, 32, from Sheffield, died in the blast.

Ms Booth said: “My dad has not been able to walk his daughter down the aisle, my mum can’t take her shopping for a wedding dress. We will never see her grow old. As a family, we have been thrown into a world of chaos.”

Harriet Taylor, whose mother Jane Tweddle, 51, died in the blast, said the family would "never let evil win".

Tributes left in Manchester city centre following the terror attack in May 2017

She said in a statement: “We simply will not let evil win. Evil is invisible, it has no face, no heart, no race. But what we have that evil never will have is love.”

Michael Thompson, father of victim Michelle Kiss, 45, from Whalley in Lancashire, said: “We believe there is more good in the world than bad but unfortunately it only takes one bad person to devastate and destroy so many lives.”

The mothers of teenage sweethearts Chloe Rutherford and Liam Curry told of their devastation.

Lisa Rutherford said: “As a family we need answers – we are destroyed.”

Photo issued by Greater Manchester Police of Hashem Abedi, younger brother of the Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi

Ms Rutherford, who was supporting herself on crutches as she read her statement, said her “heart snapped” when she received a telephone call with the news that her 17-year-old daughter had died.

Wiping away tears, she said: “We are lost, we are devastated and we feel an overwhelming loss.”

Caroline Curry held up a photo of 19-year-old Liam and appeared to address some of her comments to the absent Hashem.

She said: “You took from me something more precious than gold, a beautiful boy, inside and out. I want you to look at Liam and remember the beautiful boy that was snatched away.

“Your actions have caused this heartbreak. I just feel cheated. You took his future, my future, my family’s future. All we have now is heartbreak and dreams of what if.”

Abedi, who travelled to Libya the month before the bombing, was arrested hours after the attack and was extradited back to Britain last summer.

Family and friends of the Manchester bomb victims, wearing masks in support of the victims, arrive to watch the sentencing of Hashem Abedi via videolink.

He initially told police he wanted to co-operate to prove his innocence, but he absented himself from much of his trial and sacked his legal team.

It meant grieving families and survivors have not heard from the man police believe may have masterminded the plot.

Mr Justice Jeremy Baker told the court Abedi could not be sentenced to a whole life order which would see him spend the rest of his life in prison due to being under 21 at the time of the bombing.

However, he could be given multiple life sentences with a minimum starting point of 30 years.

During the trial, prosecutor Duncan Penny QC said Hashem Abedi was “just as guilty” as the bomber who killed 22 men, women and children aged between eight and 51.

From January 2017, the brothers set about buying nuts and screws for shrapnel and ordering chemicals from Amazon for the homemade TATP explosive, with unwitting help from friends and relatives.

They hid their activities by switching mobile phones and using a variety of vehicles and homes to store the materials.

Their plans were briefly scuppered when their parents insisted they join them in Libya in April 2017 amid possible concerns about their descent into radicalisation, police said.

Salman Abedi returned alone the next month, and bought a rucksack and more shrapnel, constructed his bomb in a rented flat in central Manchester, and carried out reconnaissance missions.

Jurors were shown chilling CCTV footage of the 22-year-old travelling to the foyer of the arena, before detonating his bomb at 10.31pm, just as crowds were leaving the venue.

Mr Penny said Hashem Abedi was “at times chauffeur, at times quartermaster, at times electrical technician” in the plot.

A public inquiry into the bombing is scheduled to start next month.