LONDON — A British judge handed a prison sentence Tuesday to a homeless man who admitted stealing from victims of the Manchester Arena bombing while pretending to help them.
Chris Parker, 33, received worldwide acclaim when he said he helped comfort people who were injured or dying after the suicide attack at the end of an Ariana Grande concert. Twenty-two people were killed in the May 22 bombing.
Closed-circuit TV footage showing Parker stealing a purse and a mobile phone from victims ended his status as a homeless hero. He admitted to theft and fraud charges.
Before the footage got out, some 50,000 pounds ($70,000) was raised to help Parker. The money will be returned.
In sentencing Parker to a prison term of four years and three months, Judge David Hernandez said it was hard to imagine a “more reprehensible set of circumstances.”
“You were not the hero you pretended to be, you were just a common thief,” Hernandez said.
Prosecutor Louise Brandon described what happened after Parker picked up the phone that belonged to a teenager who was holding it when the bomb went off.
People tried to call the teen, and the phone rang a number of times, Brandon said. At one point, Parker terminated a call with an automatic return text message which read: “Sorry I can’t talk right now.”
The girl’s mother said in a victim impact statement that the 14-year-old, who can’t be named, was upset because she did not have a way to tell friends and family how she was after the attack.
Parker also admitted stealing a purse from Pauline Healey, who was at the Manchester Arena with her daughter and 14-year old granddaughter. Parker used Healey’s debit card to buy food at McDonald’s, authorities said. Healey’s granddaughter, Sorrell Leczkowski, died.
Prosecutors acknowledged there was some time in the arena in which Parker appeared to be offering comfort. However, Brandon said Parker had other motives.
“As the tragedy unfolded around him, when the vast majority of those who were in the arena with him were trying to save lives and care for the injured and lost, the defendant was focused on seeking to take advantage of the situation,” Brandon said.