North Wales mum noticed Manchester Arena bomber moments before blast

Sarah Nellist described Salam Abedi as looking "odd" but just thought he may have just be there with a sister.

A mother from north Wales has described noticing the Manchester Arena bomber just moments before he detonated his deadly device.

Sarah Nellist was waiting for her daughter and niece who had attended the Ariana Grande concert on 22 May 2017 and told a public inquiry on Monday of "desperately" searching for the two girls after the bomb went off.

Ms Nellist said she spotted the man, who she now knows was Salman Abedi, 22, and he "looked odd" and out of place with all the parents in the arena foyer waiting to pick-up their children.

Seconds later Abedi, who a witness told the inquiry was "smiling", pressed the detonator on his device. Hundreds of people were injured in the blast and 22 people lost their lives.

The public inquiry is looking at the events around the bombing.

22 people were killed when Salam Abedi detonated his home-made explosive device.

Ms Nellist was stood near the box office in the City Room foyer along with dozens of other parents, the public inquiry into the terror attack heard.

She said she saw Abedi, who was dressed all in black and carrying a rucksack containing a home-made bomb, also waiting as crowds of "excited young girls" started to stream through the doors.

Ms Nellist said: "I just saw him stood there. He just looked odd. There was mums and dads there and I just looked, I thought maybe he was there for a sister and he did not want to be there."

When Abedi detonated his device, it sent out thousands of nuts and bolts, killing 22 bystanders, injuring hundreds and leaving many with psychological scars too.

Ms Nellist, who had taken her 17-year-old daughter and six-year-old niece to the event, told the hearing: "It was in the corner of my eye. He detonated the bomb. The only way I can describe it, it was like black powder paint.

"A high-pitched sound I have never experienced anything like before and the heat was just unbelievable."

Ms Nellist was injured and knocked to the ground by the force of the blast.

She continued: "I was trying to stand. There was a loud fire alarm going off. I couldn't really hear properly. I ran to the concourse desperately trying to search for my daughter and niece.

"I was trying to call my daughter, she answered her phone but I could not hear her."

The three managed to meet up outside the arena and make their way to their car.

Ms Nellist added: "My niece was getting really upset with things she was seeing."

The ticket for her daughter had been a Christmas present and her niece also wanted to go.

Tributes were laid at Manchester's Victoria station following the terrorist attack. Credit: PA Imaes

Road closures after the bombing meant Ms Nellist got lost in Manchester on their way home and she ended up following a car with a Welsh dragon on the back.

The inquiry is now dealing with the experiences of the survivors and events immediately before and after the detonation of the bomb.

Paul Greaney QC, opening the hearing after the Easter break, warned some of the evidence to be heard will be highly traumatic.

He said survivors have described a scene of youngsters giddy with excitement, feelings of joy and happy faces and excited little girls having the "time of their lives" contrasted with the "horror shortly after".