The homeless man heralded as a hero for his actions in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombings was today jailed for four years and banned from the city centre for a decade.
Christopher James Parker, 33, pleaded guilty last year to stealing a mobile phone from a young girl and a purse from Pauline Healey on the night of the attack. Both victims were badly injured at the time.
Louise Brandon, prosecuting, told the court how the theft of the mobile phone prevented the young girl from making contact with her parents in the chaotic aftermath of the blast. This lead to her own distress and that of her parents, friends and family who were unable to contact her.
Evidence was also presented that, following the phone’s theft, a message was sent from the phone to someone trying to contact the young girl which read: “Sorry, I can’t talk right now.”
In her witness statement, the young girl’s mother talked of how the events of the night had been traumatic.
She added that Parker’s actions were “yet another blow as to how despicable people can be.”
The court also heard how, as Mrs Healey and her family lay severely injured, Mr Parker at first appeared to help her, holding her mobile phone to her ear so she could contact her husband.
Mrs Healey’s granddaughter sadly later died as a result of the injuries she sustained that evening.
Mrs Healey’s personal witness statement gave details of how she felt ‘initial relief’ when she saw Parker approaching to help her and her family.
What Mrs Healey later realised, however, was that Parker had taken her purse out of her handbag as he had rummaged for her phone.
He kept the purse until late June, and used Mrs Healey’s card to buy food from a fast food chain.
It was also revealed that Parker had in fact taken photographs of the injured and dying inside the arena that night, which he later sold to the press.
John Broadley, defending, read out a statement on behalf of the defendant, in what all sides acknowledged was an ‘exceptional’ case.
He said: “[Parker] wishes me to express his deep sorrow and shame for his behaviour that night. It was something that he wished for me to express to the court and to the public. It probably will carry very little weight, but it is something he has asked me to say on his behalf.”
His Honour Judge Hernandez, presiding, sentenced Parker to a total of four years, three months in prison for his crimes on the night of the arena bomb, as well as other offences (including breach of bail terms).
Upon sentencing, Judge Hernandez addressed Parker and said: “You represented yourself as a man who had shown great courage and selflessness by going to the aid of those who had been injured. However, when your actions were scrutinised a different picture emerged.
“You deliberately targeted victims on the basis of their vulnerability. Your behaviour has been viewed with repugnance by the community as a whole. It is hard to imagine a more reprehensible set of circumstances.
“The true spirit of Manchester was displayed by the actions of the 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 just a common thief.”
Parker was also handed a Criminal Behaviour Order, banning him from Manchester City Centre for 10 years.
Image courtesy of the BBC, with thanks.