Liam Spencer and Stephanie Stitt were at the scene when the blast happened (Picture: Liverpool Echo/Rex)
Witnesses to the Liverpool bomb attack have described the moments after the blast and their attempts to rescue the suspect and taxi driver.
Delivery driver Liam Spencer has revealed how he tried to ‘grab’ attacker Emad Al Swealmeen from the car moments after it exploded outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Remembrance Sunday.
Security guard Darren Knowles meanwhile rushed to the aid of taxi driver David Perry after he fled the vehicle, and said Mr Perry was screaming: ‘Someone has blown me up. I want my wife.’
Liam, 21, and his partner, Steph Stitt, 20, were parked in a car just metres from the taxi when the bomb, which police believe to have been built by Al Swealmeen, was set off.
The pair were unaware that the incident was a terror attack and were visiting Liam’s old workplace to say hello to his former colleagues.
He told the Liverpool Echo: ‘I pulled up and said I should only be five or 10 minutes and told her to wait [in the car].
‘I walked in and I was having a chat with my old colleague. But as I was getting ready to leave, I just heard this explosion – this loud bang.
Liam and Stephanie were shocked by the incident (Picture: Liverpool Echo)
‘At first I thought it could have been a car crash but I thought that’s awfully loud for a car crash.
‘I ran out and saw the car had exploded. My first thought was just to grab my girlfriend and get her close to the building or inside so she’s out of the way.’
Talking to the BBC, Liam, from Childwall, continued: ‘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 was engulfed in flames very quickly.
The attack took place on Remembrance Sunday outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital
‘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.’
Suspected bomber Emad Al Swealmeen died in the explosion (Picture: REX/Shutterstock)
Iraq-born Al Swealmeen, 32, thought to be a Christian convert, died in the explosion while Mr Perry escaped with injuries.
Security guard Darren described hearing a ‘loud bang’ at the time of the explosion, and said he believed it was a mechanical failure before seeing Mr Perry rush from the taxi.
He told the Mirror: ‘He was panicking and screaming, “Someone has blown me up. I want my wife”.
‘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”.’
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Mr Knowles added: ‘Everyone is calling me a hero but I was just doing my job.
‘My hands were shaking when I realised how close I was to being blown up. But you don’t think, you just do.’
Officers have described how Al Swealmeen had rented a property in Liverpool seven months ago and started making ‘relevant purchases’ for his homemade bomb since ‘at least’ that time.
A Royal Logistics Corp bomb disposal vehicle arrived at Boaler Street on Wednesday along with a fire engine after a police cordon in nearby Sutcliffe Street, where officers believe Al Swealmeen previously lived, was extended.
Several suspicious packages were found, and were examined by explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) officers before being recovered by forensic teams, Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson said.
The cordon was later removed from Boaler Street but Mr Jackson said the public may still see EOD officers in the area on Thursday.
Further searches have also been carried out at another property.
Mr Jackson confirmed reports that the asylum seeker had suffered periods of mental illness and this is being explored as part of the investigation.
Al Swealmeen, who had an asylum application rejected in 2014 after arriving in the UK, had a fresh appeal on his asylum application at the time of his death.
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