The hero taxi driver who survived the Poppy Day suicide bombing in Liverpool told rescuers as he stumbled out the car: ‘Someone has blown me up’.
David Perry, 45, locked terrorist Emad Al Swealmeen, 32, in his cab outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital at 10.59am on Remembrance Sunday before the suicide bomber set off his device.
Security guard Darren Knowles, who can be seen wearing yellow hi-viz and racing to help Mr Perry in CCTV of the attack, has revealed that the cabbie fell from his car with blood pouring from his neck and ear from a shrapnel wound screaming: ‘I want my wife’.
Relieving the horror of Sunday’s bombing, Mr Knowles, who was on duty at the maternity hospital when Al Swealmeen struck, told The Mirror: ‘David was just so disorientated and confused.
‘He was trying to tell us, ”There is a passenger, there is a passenger”. I was trying to say to him, ”Is he still in there”, and he was saying, ”He has tried to blow me up, he has tried to blow me up”.
‘It all happened in a flash. I was just pumping my tyre up on my car. I saw the taxi pull up as they do. I heard a loud bang and thought it was mechanical failure in the taxi. I thought the engine had caught fire. But then I saw the taxi driver run out. He was panicking and screaming, ”Someone has blown me up”’.
Mr Knowles, 50, who lives with his partner and two of their three children, added: ‘Everyone is calling me a hero but I was just doing my job.’
Liam, 21, and his partner, Steph, 20, were parked in a car just metres from the taxi when the bomb was set off. Liam told the BBC: ‘Explosions just went off and it shook the hospital building.
‘Then I got closer to the car, I could smell the smoke and I could see the man in the back. I went to grab him but he engulfed in flames very quickly. I couldn’t reach a hold of him without setting myself on fire.’
Steph, a student mental health nurse, added: ‘I was like, ”Is there a baby in the back?” And we found out there was a passenger, so everyone was screaming ”999!”’ It’s scary to just think about how things could have been different to be honest. You do struggle with [thinking] ”Is that ever going to happen again? Am I going to get over this?” I’ve said to myself and my family I’m not going to let it affect me.
‘It’s not gonna have a hold on me at all…I do feel very lucky to be alive.’
It comes as counter-terrorism police investigate whether Al Swealmeen, who was allegedly seen at local mosque every day during Ramadan in April while he built a bomb, had experimented with a 7/7-style device as he gathered explosive materials in a rental flat.
The Iraq-born failed asylum seeker’s bomb may have gone off when it was ‘jostled’ as the taxi came to a stop, it emerged last night. A search of Al Swealmeen’s home and an examination of his online purchases showed he was attempting to build a bomb powerful enough to have caused ‘damage, death and destruction’ on a massive scale, according to The Telegraph.
And reports that Al Swealmeen had been seen praying with a Muslim a week before the bombing – is likely to rouse suspicion that his conversion to Christianity in 2017 was a ploy to help him persuade the Home Office to let him stay in the UK.
However, officers have found no evidence that he had any connections to any terrorist group, suggesting he may have been a ‘lone wolf’ radicalised during lockdown.
And police and security services are unsure if Al Swealmeen’s intended target was the maternity hospital or the Remembrance Sunday service at Liverpool Cathedral, which was less than a mile away and was where he had converted to Christianity.
Security guard Darren Knowles (right), who was on duty at the maternity hospital when the bomber struck, said: ‘David Perry (left) was just so disorientated and confused. He was saying, ”He has tried to blow me up, he has tried to blow me up”’
Mr Knowles, who can be seen in CCTV which emerged after the attack wearing yellow hi-viz and racing to help Mr Perry, has revealed that the cabbie fell from his car with blood pouring from his neck and ear from a shrapnel wound screaming: ‘I want my wife’
His homemade bomb blew up as he approached the hospital. Experts have suggested it could have been a poorly made Mother of Satan device or even one put together with fireworks
Aerial view of the aftermath of the explosion at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital and the burnt out taxi
Police said: ‘This is a routine extension of the cordon to allow officers to make an assessment of materials found in a property. It is related to the terror incident’
Police have also yet to find any evidence that failed asylum seeker and pizza chef Emad Al Swealmeen, 32, conspired with or was inspired by a terror group, suggesting he was a ‘lone wolf’ who became radicalised online during lockdown.
Priti Patel accuses church of helping asylum seekers ‘game the system’ by converting to Christianity
The Church of England was today accused of aiding asylum seekers to ‘game’ the immigration system by helping hundreds to convert from Islam and ‘pray to stay’ in the UK as it emerged people smugglers are using Instagram to urge migrants to follow Jesus to help them gain British citizenship.
Emad Al Swealmeen lost his first bid to stay in Britain in 2014 but appealed again in 2017 after he worshipped at Liverpool Cathedral and his case was still outstanding when he blew himself up in a taxi on Sunday.
He was baptised and confirmed having apparently spoken ‘endlessly and passionately about Jesus’, but members of the city’s largest Anglican church admitted they ‘lost contact’ with him within months of the ceremony.
He was one of around 200 asylum seekers to adopt the faith there over a four-year period.
A clergyman at Liverpool Cathedral previously raised concerns about asylum seekers cynically posing as Christians to boost their chances of being awarded refugee status.
Rev Mohammad Eghtedarian admitted in 2016 that ‘plenty of people’ were lying about their intentions after it emerged that the Church of England had christened hundreds of asylum seekers under a scheme dubbed ‘pray to stay’.
He said: ‘There are many people abusing the system… I’m not ashamed of saying that. But is it the person’s fault or the system’s fault? And who are they deceiving? The Home Office, me as a pastor, or God?’
MPs are to demand a formal Parliamentary probe into whether fake Christian converts are duping the Church of England to avoid being deported back to strict Muslim countries they came from.
It came as new statistics revealed that between January 2020 and June this year, 29% of all migrants arriving by boat say they are from Iran and 20% say they are from Iraq.
91% of all migrants came from just 10 countries – including Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Eritrea and Yemen. These are also nations named in the top 20 countries where Christians are the most persecuted for following Jesus.
Priti Patel said last night that Al Swealmeen, who changed his name to Enzo Almeni shortly after finding Jesus, exploited the UK’s asylum ‘merry-go-round’ while a Home Office source said changing from Islam to Christianity is now ‘standard practice’ among asylum seekers ‘to game the asylum system’.
Pledging to overhaul the asylum system, Home Secretary Miss Patel declared last night: ‘The case in Liverpool was a complete reflection of how dysfunctional, how broken, the system has been in the past, and why I want to bring changes forward.
‘It’s a complete merry-go-round and it’s been exploited by a whole professional legal services industry which has based itself on rights of appeal, going to the courts day in day out on legal aid at the expense of the taxpayers.’
Counter-terrorism detectives increasingly believe it was an Islamist attack, though they can’t rule out that his mental health may have also played a part.
An insider told The Telegraph: ‘Methodology wise, this attack is entirely jihadist – but we have an open mind as to what precisely was motivating him. If he built a much more destructive device then the detonation looks accidental. It looks lucky.’
Sources have said it is possible the sensitive detonator went off accidentally.
‘In moving to get ready to get out of the taxi, he might have set it off. Or else, as the vehicle has come to a stop, he has dropped it or jostled it and it has gone off,’ a source told the paper.
Police have uncovered at least two types of explosives in his flat. Investigators are trying to determine whether HMTD, a hydrogen peroxide-based explosive used on July 7, was the primary explosive, The Times reported.
After July 7 a sellers’ scheme was announced to alert the authorities about suspicious purchases of hydrogen peroxide and to limit the strengths at which the chemical could be sold. There have been calls since for the sale of the substance to be banned.
A Royal Logistics Corp bomb disposal vehicle was seen arriving in Sutcliffe Street, Liverpool along with a fire engine, and the cordon was slightly extended to Boaler Street before ending yesterday.
Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson, Head of Counter Terrorism Policing North West, said several suspicious packages were examined by officers before being recovered by forensic teams.
Searches have also been carried out at a property in Rutland Avenue that had been rented by Al Swealmeen since April, and that is the main focus of the police investigation.
Police earlier said Iraq-born Al Swealmeen had rented a property in Liverpool seven months ago and had started making ‘relevant purchases’ for his homemade bomb ‘at least’ since that time.
Officers are yet to find any evidence that Al Swealmeen conspired with or was inspired by a terror group, suggesting he was a ‘lone wolf’ who became radicalised online during lockdown.
One theory is that the bomber was suffering a mental health crisis having been devastated at his continued failure to gain asylum here because the Home Office refused to believe he was Syrian. Yesterday it emerged his next of kin have told police he was born in Iraq.
In an update on the investigation ACC Jackson said that the pizza chef who converted from Islam to Christianity began renting his flat in Rutland Avenue, Liverpool at around Easter.
ACC Jackson said: ‘A complex picture is emerging over the purchases of the component parts of the device, we know that Al Swealmeen rented the property from April this year and we believe relevant purchases have been made at least since that time’.
He added: ‘At this time we are not finding any link to others in the Merseyside area of concern but this remains a fast moving investigation and as more becomes known we cannot rule out action against others’.
Confirming the terrorist’s cause of death he said: ‘The post mortem on the deceased has taken place and the cause of death has been described as injuries sustained from the fire and explosion.’
He also said that the 32-year-old asylum seeker had suffered from periods of mental illness that will ‘form part of the investigation and will take some time to fully understand’.
Mr Jackson added: ‘There is much comment in the media about Al Swealmeen and it is clear that he was known to many people. We continue to appeal for people who knew him, especially those who associated with him this year as we try and piece together the events leading up to this incident and the reasons for it’.
His 1lb bomb went off as his taxi pulled up at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital just before the 11am national silence on Remembrance Sunday.
There have been conflicting reports about what the device was made of.
Some insiders claimed it was packed with ball bearings and made using homemade TATP explosives. TATP is unstable and known as a ‘Mother of Satan’ because it is liable to blow up accidentally. It was used by Islamist terrorist in the Paris suicide attacks of 2015, the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017 and the failed Parsons Green Underground station.
But other experts believe he may have bought his explosives online or on the high street and may have even constructed his home-made improvised explosive device (IED) using seasonal fireworks.
Detectives are now trying to trace Al Swealmeen’s movements to discover whether he bought his explosives online or on the high street. Experts now fear the bomber constructed his home-made improvised explosive device (IED) using seasonal fireworks.
A former counter-terror official told The Telegraph: ‘The white smoke that can be seen billowing out of the cab could indicate the use of gunpowder and there is also a flash within the cab itself which could be powder burning. It is possible to construct homemade devices using fireworks, but it still requires a degree of expertise and planning.’
Worryingly, no one who knew him raised the alarm about his behaviour. His local mental health trust said he had previously been receiving help, but was no longer a patient.
A Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: ‘We can confirm Emad Al Swealmeen had previously accessed our services but was not a service user at the time of the incident.’
Friends said Al Swealmeen had wrestled with depression and was sectioned in 2014 after he was rejected for asylum for the first time. They recalled how the bomber was so ‘car mad’ that he nicknamed himself ‘GT’ and had the initials tattooed on his arm along with a chequered flag.
The Royal Logistic Corps, Bomb Disposal team arriving at Sutcliffe Street in the Kensington area of Liverpool
Army Bomb Disposal team making their way to Sutcliffe Street as the investigation continues following the explosion at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital
This afternoon the damaged taxi was being removed by forensic officer after the explosion at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital that killed terrorist Emad Al Swealmeen, 32
A forensics officer walks past police officer upon arrival to a property on Rutland Avenue, a flat he rented from April and where he began building his bomb
Forensic officers remain at Liverpool Women’s Hospital gathering evidence after the blast
Malcolm and Elizabeth Hitchcott gave Al Swealmeen a room in their home for eight months in 2017
He changed his name to Enzo Almeni – after the Ferrari boss – and loved go-karting so much that that he bought his own helmet and got friends to sign it.
He was a regular at the TeamSport Go-karting track, on Liverpool’s Brunswick docks, often going with his housemates or on his own to race laps.
Friends said they were astounded that the ‘quiet and bashful’ young man, who was also a big fan of country singer Johnny Cash, was behind the Poppy Day bomb.
One, who knew Al Swealmeen through his job at a pizza takeaway, said: ‘He called himself GT because he loved cars, it was a little nickname he gave himself, he even had it tattooed on his arm.
‘He was quiet, but not in a weird way, he was just really shy. I nearly fell off my chair when I saw his picture. Of all the people that worked in the takeaway he would have been bottom of my list to do something so sick.
‘He was reserved, but not like he was hiding something, more like he was lacking in confidence. He did speak to me about feeling depressed one time, but didn’t really go into it. At the time he lived in a shared house with a few others and all he cared about was go-karting.
‘He showed me his helmet that he had bought, he was really excited about it. He went go-karting a few times on his own, he was so into it, and I remember him getting a tattoo and showing it off.
‘He also loved Johnny Cash and he told me he wanted to get a Johnny Cash tattoo too.’
Malcolm Hitchcott, 77, a lay pastor and retired Army officer who gave Al Swealmeen a room in his home for eight months in 2017, remembered accompanying him on a trip to the track.
Pictures on social media show him in racing overalls at the karting venue, where he took part in ‘Top Gun’ marathon karting races and ’50-lap’ events. ‘He got me to sign his helmet, rather like Lewis Hamilton signs helmets [for fans],’
Mr Hitchcott added: ‘He never spoke about a particular driver but he loved Ferrari, he was a Ferrari man. His email address was Ferrari-related too. He was very interested in motor racing.’
Al Swealmeen is understood to have ordered a taxi from Rutland Avenue to the Crown Street hospital shortly before 11am on Remembrance Sunday
The indoor facility boasts 40mph karts and several of Liverpool’s sporting greats such as Jamie Carragher, Sam Quek and Tony Bellew on its celebrity leaderboard.
But a source said Al Swealmeen had not been to the track for over a year. Last night the businessman who employed Al Swealmeen at his pizza takeaway for several months in around 2016 said he was a ‘nice, polite guy’.
‘I was shocked when I saw who it was,’ the man, who did not want to be named, said.
‘I still can’t believe it. He was a nice, polite guy. He wasn’t a practising Muslim, he told me he lived with a Christian family, and he definitely wasn’t a fanatic.
‘I’ve employed Muslims before, some of them don’t like touching ham if it isn’t Halal, but he didn’t seem worried about that.
‘He worked part-time for me, he had a visa and was legit. I paid him about £50 a day.
‘Never in a million years would I think him capable of something like that.’
The friend agreed Al Swealmeen was not religious.
‘He never really talked about religion,’ he added.
‘I didn’t think he practised any faith, although I do remember him telling me one time he had been to church and was trying to get to know people there.
‘I would love to know what happened to him over the past few years. He must have been manipulated or corrupted. The man I knew and what he did on Sunday – they are like night and day.’