Heartbroken parents of some of the victims of the Manchester Arena terrorist attack have broken down in court as they recalled the moment they discovered their loved ones had died.
Lisa Rutherford, the mother of Chloe Rutherford, 17, said her “heart snapped” when she received a phone call with the news about her daughter.
Along with other relatives of the 22 people killed in May 2017, Mrs Rutherford has taken part in an emotional day of testimony at a sentencing hearing for Hashem Abedi – the brother of bomber Salman Abedi.
Wiping away tears, and supported by crutches, she said: “We are lost, we are devastated and we feel an overwhelming loss.
“Somehow we are expected to get through life without her, without our baby girl, and it just feels impossible. There is always that empty chair where she should be.
“Losing Chloe is a physical pain, like nothing I’ve never felt before, and it never leaves us.”
Hashem Abedi, 23, was found guilty earlier this year of 22 murders, several more attempted murders and a plot to cause an explosion that would endanger life.
He was in Libya at the time of the atrocity, but a court heard how he had planned it, including buying bomb-making materials, with his brother, who killed himself when he detonated a bomb at an Ariana Grande concert three years ago.
Hashem Abedi was not present at his two-day sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey, after refusing to enter the courtroom.
The judge, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker, said Abedi had been brought to the court building from prison, but said he was powerless to drag him into the courtroom. He also turned down legal representation.
In his absence, families of the victims recounted how the attack had “changed [their] lives forever”.
Simon Callander’s daughter Georgina, 18, was among those killed.
In a statement read to the court, Mr Callander said: “I long for the day when I can join my little girl again, grab hold of her and never let go.
“I have daily episodes of feeling so spaced out, my whole body throbbing,” he continued. “I can remember on some occasions being so far out of it that I thought I was already dead.
“This is my life sentence.”
Caroline Curry’s son, Liam, 19, was killed at the arena just weeks after her husband, and Liam’s father, died from cancer.
Through tears, Mrs Curry told the court that following her son’s death “life now is not life, it is an existence”.
“I only function when it is necessary,” she said.
“You [Hashem Abedi] took from me a gift more precious than gold, a beautiful boy who would never hurt anyone, who was always there to help.
“This world has lost a beautiful soul.”
Men, women and children died in the blast. The youngest victim was just eight years old.
The sentencing hearing will continue into a second day on Thursday.
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