Wardens gave bomb van a ticket

Click to follow
The van containing the bomb which wrecked central Manchester was given a parking ticket two hours before the explosion, police said last night.

Details of the vehicle were recorded on close circuit video. It was a 71/2 tonne Ford Cargo van with an orange cab and white box, registration number C214 ACL, and with the words "Jack Roberts Transport" written on the front.

Releasing the information, Manchester's Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Cairns, said four coded warnings were received in both Northern Ireland and Britain at 9.45am and the order to evacuate Manchester city centre was given 10am.

The devastation caused by the subsequent blast was on such a scale that Mr Cairns was astonished there had been no fatalities. He estimated that the damage to the city centre would run to millions of pounds and said: "I would be surprised if we could salvage all the buildings that have been damaged."

It was Manchester's sunniest Satruday morning of the year so far, the eve of Father's Day and of a Euro 96 match which had brought thousands of German and Russian fans into town. An estimated 60,000 shoppers were in the central area that was to be wrecked, plus a further 15,000 shop staff and other workers.

As soon as the decision was taken to evacuate, police informed shops and offices and began setting up roadblocks. A police helicopter circled overhead broadcasting warnings by loud hailer. Although there were an estimated 75,000 people in the district, police said the operation was largely successful. "In a busy city at that time in the morning it was not easy to evacuate. But because of the co-operation of the shops and businesses we managed to get the majority of the people away inside the hour," said a spokeswoman.

Most shoppers were moved beyond exclusion barriers, roughly isolating a square mile of the city centre. However the force of the device was such that it sent glass and debris beyond the cordon. Witnesses reported it "was raining glass".

The scene was of hundreds of people screaming and running away. Some had blood pouring down their faces, others were left shouting for help. Dozens of ambulances arrived quickly and paramedics found themselves removing shards of glass from casualties on the spot.

The blast ripped about 40 metres from the side of the Arndale centre. Windows were blown out of buildings up to half a mile away and the streets were strewn with broken glass.

Hours afterwards, the centre of Manchester was silent. Around the exclusion zones crowds of people simply sat on the pavements, most of them in silence looking like confused refugees. Some were still waiting for news of their relatives and friends who went shopping in the city centre yesterday.