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24 September 2014
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Manchester bomb

Clock and Manchester bomb
Countdown to terror

Countdown to terror

15 June 1996: the day of the Manchester bomb. Through the testimonies of victims, expert witnesses, the emergency services and even a former IRA member, we piece together the events of that day. This is our bomb timeline:

09:20: the bombers arrive

Two men in hooded jackets drive a Ford Cargo van into the city and park on double yellow lines on Corporation Street next to Marks & Spencer. The van is packed with 3,000lb of fertiliser explosive. They set the timer and calmly walk away.

09:43: the coded warning

audio Gary Hall, Granada security guard >
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A man with an Irish accent phones the switchboard at Granada TV studios in Manchester. Gary Hall, a security guard takes the call. He is told a bomb on the corner of Corporation St and Cannon St will explode in one hour. The caller gives a recognised codeword.

10:10: evacuation begins

audio Cathy Bailey, NEXT shop assistant >
audio Andy Power, Arndale security guard >
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A dozen police officers based at Bootle Street police station are given the task of clearing the city centre of 80,000 shoppers and shopworkers in less than an hour. They work with security guards and firefighters to get people behind the cordon. Andy Powers, security guard in the Arndale Centre, helped to evacuate the building. Cathy Bailey worked in NEXT in the Arndale at the time:

10:46: bomb squad arrives

audio Bomb squad >
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The Ford Cargo van is identified. The Army bomb disposal team arrives from its base in Liverpool and attempts to defuse the bomb before it can detonate using a robot device. They are seconds too late. BBC Radio Manchester's Alexia O'Connor looks at the failed operation:

11:17 and 04 secs - EXPLOSION

Seconds before the bomb can be disarmed, it explodes at 2,000 feet per second. The blast is filmed from the police helicopter, India 99, as it sends up a huge mushroom cloud of debris. The devastation is massive. A third of the city's retail space is wrecked. Marks & Spencer, the tunnel to the Arndale and the neighbouring Longridge House are utterly destroyed. Later estimates put the damage at a cost of £700m.

11:50: The aftermath

Julian Sorfleet was working as a concierge at the Ramada Hotel. He was yards away from the bomb when it exploded and was injured. He is still suffering ten years on Fireman Phil Murphy was on duty that day. He treated Julian Sorfleet outside the Ramada moments after the blast. Teenage sisters Erin and Flora Mactague arrive at Victoria Station for a shopping trip in town as the bomb explodes. Flora recalls the sense of panic.

12:10: the injured

Glass and masonry rains down on people behind the police cordon injuring 212 people. Lisa Hughes and her 7-month old baby Sam are cut by flying glass on John Dalton Street. A security guard is holding Lisa's baby as they are captured in an iconic Manchester Evening News photograph. Lisa and her husband Perry need 50 stitches.

12:25: emergency services

Hospitals across Greater Manchester are put on standby to receive hundreds of casualties. Thankfully, injuries are not as serious as was feared. Dozens of ambulances ferry the wounded to Accident & Emergency departments.

12:45: treating the injured

Paramedics and doctors begin to treat people for cuts and lacerations caused by flying glass. Police officers are also injured. People behind the cordons start to make their way home. Looters are spotted near Albert Square.

13:50: search for bodies

Fire crews are joined by police searching shops and offices for casualties. Mannequins which have fallen out of shop windows are briefly confused for bodies. Miraculously, no-one was killed in the blast. People who have abandoned cars, keys and money in the evacuation face a long walk home.

14:45: the relief

People gather at cafes and bars to share their stories and and their relief at surviving what turns out to be the biggest mainland bomb in Britain. Long queues form at public payphones as people try to tell friends and family that they're alive.

15:50: the shock

As people arrive home and see the scale of the devastation on television, the shock sinks in. However, those who were in Manchester owe their lives to the small number of police officers and security guards who cleared the city centre that day.

June 2006: ten years on

audio David Kinchern, PTSD counsellor >
audio Kevin Roberts, BBC cameraman >
Audio and Video links on this page require Realplayer

Many of those caught up in the events of June 15th 1996 were extremely traumatised by what they went through. Police officers retired, unable to do their job. BBC cameraman Kevin Roberts filmed the devastation and the panic in the wake of the explosion. Ten years on, he still suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:

The politics of terror

What were the bombers themselves thinking on that day? How would they have justified their actions? Forensic Psychologist Dr Jacqueline Wheatcroft  and former IRA member Anthony McIntyre shed some light.

Professor Richard English explains why the Manchester bombers will never be brought to justice.

last updated: 21/06/06
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