The grieving mother of a Scots schoolgirl has said her “whole world has been shattered into pieces” as the first tributes were paid to victims at the Manchester Arena bombing public inquiry.
Poignant memories from family and friends remembering the 22 people murdered in the May 2017 terror attack began on Monday as the commemorative hearings phase of the inquiry began.
Tributes were paid to Eilidh MacLeod, 14, from Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Martyn Hett, 29, from Stockport, John Atkinson, 28, from Bury, and Sorrell Leczkowski, 14, from Leeds, at the start of the second week of the inquiry.
Roderick and Marion MacLeod attended the hearing in Manchester as a video tribute was played for their daughter, the second-born of their three girls.
The video began with images of a beautiful sunrise over the mountains and beaches of Barra, set to traditional Scottish bagpipe music, one of the teen’s passions.
Mrs MacLeod said: “Eilidh was a very special girl – of course she was, she was mine.
“Even though she was only 14 she was loving life. My whole world has been shattered into pieces.”
‘My whole world has been shattered into pieces.’Marion MacLeod
The video was interspersed with photos of Eilidh as a young child, pictured dressing up, wearing make-up and posing for happy family holiday snaps.
Shy and quiet growing up, Eilidh would often hide behind her big sister Shona, the inquiry heard.
Though very close to her family, as she grew up she loved make-up, her phone, social media and music, playing in pipe bands, with the video showing her in a kilt and playing the pipes.
Duncan Nicholson, the son of her bagpipes tutor, said: “As we say on the islands, ‘she had the music’.”
Eilidh always had a book on the go and loved Harry Potter, along with her younger sister Laura, and schoolmates from Castlebay Community School remembered for her bubbliness and friendliness.
Michelle McLean, her old primary school teacher, said: “You are taught not to have favourites but some children just stick with you, and Eilidh was one of the girls that stuck with me.
“She brought this warmth and glow about her. She had a special sparkle in her eyes. She was such a loving young girl. She loved, she laughed, she smiled.
“I know the island community and school community miss her so much.”
The teenager’s aunt, Margaret McNeill, described her as a “blonde-haired, green-eyed bundle of fun”.
Her cousin, Tony McNeill, added that he missed her “every single day”.
Her father stated: “She was just growing into a lovely, lovely young woman with this fantastic skill she was able to express herself in.”
After the video faded to a sunset over the sea surrounding Barra, Sir John Saunders, chairman of the inquiry, said: “If I may say so, that was a very beautiful and fitting tribute.
“Music has always played a huge part in my life.
“At the risk of upsetting the whole of Scotland I have never been a great fan of the bagpipes, but watching that has begun to change my mind.”
Suicide bomber Salman Abedi murdered the 22 victims and injured hundreds more after detonating a homemade bomb at the arena following an Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017.
Last month Hashem Abedi, his younger brother, was jailed for at least 55 years after being found guilty of 22 murders, one count of attempted murder encompassing the survivors, and plotting to cause an explosion likely to endanger life.
The public inquiry is expected to last into next spring.
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