THE MANCHESTER BOMBING: `They are crazy... they tried to kill me and my baby'

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The Independent Online
A heavily pregnant woman described yesterday how she was knocked off her feet by the Manchester bomb as she was shopping for her new baby.

Melanie Russell, 23, was close to tears as she said: "They tried to kill me and they tried to kill my baby. I heard it go off and I felt a blast. It knocked me flying and I blanked out and came round 45 minutes later in the ambulance." She added: "I was more worried about the baby than anything - I could not feel her moving."

But although doctors at the Manchester Royal Infirmary considered carrying out an emergency Caesarean operation, extensive tests shows that the unborn child was not harmed. Yesterday Ms Russell, who spent the night in St Mary's Hospital, was allowed to return to her home in Heywood, Rochdale. The child is due in about two weeks.

Ms Russell, who had been on a shopping trip with her mother, Lynda, described the terrorists as "crazy and pathetic". "Innocent people have got hurt," she said.

Her mother, who said that they had both been knocked against a concrete pillar which sheltered them from flying glass, praised two shop workers who had taken care of her unconscious daughter while the ambulance took 45 minutes to get through police cordons. But she questioned how she and her daughter were allowed to be in an area so close to the blast.

She said they had been warned not to go near the Arndale Centre and had just come out of a shop near Oldham Street when the explosion occurred. "We were about two to three blocks from the lorry. I'm annoyed that we were allowed to be as close as that."

Describing the moment the bomb went off she said: "I heard the sound of glass smashing and people screaming."

Meanwhile, a consultant surgeon at the North Manchester General Hospital said that one of the victims had received some of the worst facial injuries he had seen in 19 years. Mr Peter White said the 42-year-old woman needed up to 300 stitches after a piece of glass had sliced into her forehead "like a knife through butter".

Mr White said she had had seven hours of emergency surgery which had been like "putting a jigsaw back together". He said it was the type of injury he used to see in pre-seat-belt days when car passengers were thrown through windscreens.

He told a press conference yesterday: "Since I have been at North Manchester it is one of the most severe facial lacerations I have encountered." He said the woman would be scarred for life. She also lost four teeth, suffered cuts to her lips, arms and right leg and an injury to her right eye - though the sight was not affected. Surgeons removed 30 slivers of glass from her body.

Mr White said the woman, who was from Lancashire and married, would probably receive counselling to cope with her disfigurement, which could masked by surgery and make-up but not removed.

"Relationships and talking to people are going to be difficult for her. She will need a lot of support," he said, adding thathe did not feel she was aware of the full impact.

Another woman, 24, needed a three-hour operation after flying glass sliced open her forehead. Mr White said both patients were lucky to be alive and he was surprised there were no deaths given the scale of the explosion. Out of 79 people admitted on Saturday to the North Manchester General just 8 were detained yesterday.

The Duchess of Kent, who was in the area for another engagement, visited staff and the injured at the hospital yesterday and praised the courage of all those involved. She told an impromptu press conference: "Some of them [the patients] are obviously frightened and think they are in the middle of a nightmare and are going to wake up from it."

Describing Saturday as a "horrid" day for the North, the Duchess praised the professionalism of all the emergency services involved. Those injured in the bomb had either been out shopping or carrying out their work when the unexpected had happened, she said.

Another victim, Fionna McGill, 23, was discharged from the same hospital. She had receiving minor cuts to her legs. Ms McGill, who was on a visit to the city from Dublin, said: "I heard the bomb and then a shower of glass came down simultaneously. People were running away and everyone was hysterical. These people [who did this] may be Irish but I feel quite ashamed about what happened."