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Mayor Andy Burnham leads anniversary tributes to Manchester Arena attack victims

Andy Burnham shows his Manchester worker bee tattoo ahead of the Great Manchester Run (Martin Rickett/PA)
Andy Burnham shows his Manchester worker bee tattoo ahead of the Great Manchester Run (Martin Rickett/PA)

Mayor Andy Burnham is among those paying tribute to victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack on the five-year anniversary.

The city is marking the anniversary free of coronavirus restrictions for the first time in three years.

The commemorations on Sunday include church bells tolling at 10.31pm – the time a bomb was detonated at the Ariana Grande concert on May 22 2017.

Remembrance services will also take place at the Glade of Light Memorial by the cathedral in the city centre.

Meanwhile, more than 20,000 racers in Sunday’s Great Manchester Run were applauding the 22 victims ahead of the starting pistol.

Mayor Mr Burnham led tributes to the victims on Twitter, sharing pictures of the Glade Of Light memorial.

He wrote: “Their names forever at the heart of our city.

Freya Lewis with her father Nick
Freya Lewis with her father Nick ahead of the run (Martin Rickett/PA)

“Their families and those affected always in our thoughts.

“Our thanks for the goodness and strength of the people of Greater Manchester – eternal.”

Mr Burnham was also pictured at the Great Manchester Run with survivor Freya Lewis.

He also showed off a Manchester “worker bee” tattoo on his arm – the symbol of the city.

Ms Lewis, 19, who learned to walk again after suffering multiple injuries, fractures and burns at the bombing, will be running for the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity, who saved her life.

Freya Lewis starts the race
Leader of Manchester City Council Bev Craig (left) and Freya Lewis start the event (Martin Rickett/PA)

Ms Lewis, who used a wheelchair for three months and whose best friend Nell Jones, then 14, was killed in the attack, has raised more than £67,000 with her family since the attack.

Cheshire-raised Ms Lewis told BBC Breakfast on Sunday morning that Manchester “means the world to me”.

She said: “It’s the most incredible city, I’ll always remember the way it came together and took me in as a Mancunian, as one of their own.”

She also said she would remember Nell Jones “in everything that I do, really. She’s a very unforgettable person, she was just the most wonderful sister to me and someone that will be with me for the rest of my life”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also paid tribute to the victims and said the courage shown by people in Manchester in the days following the attack had “touched the world”.

He said: “Like the country my thoughts are with the victims, families and friends of all those affected by the cowardly attack on Manchester Arena five years ago today.

Manchester Arena attack anniversary
The 22 victims of the terror attack (Greater Manchester Police/PA)

“This was an act of terrorism against the freedoms we all hold dear, but as the people of Manchester demonstrated so courageously in the days that followed, hatred will never win.

“The bravery and defiance shown by Mancunians touched the world and just as we remember all those taken from us, we must remember and celebrate that triumph of love and community.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer wrote: “Today we remember the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, which left thousands injured and 22 innocent lives lost.

“My thoughts are with their loved ones and the people of Manchester. Your strength showed that hatred will never prevail.”

Manchester Arena attack anniversary
Mayor Andy Burnham shows his Manchester worker bee (symbol of Manchester) tattoo (Martin Rickett/PA)

Liverpool Mayor Steve Rotheram also tweeted: “5 years on from the Manchester Arena bombing, the Liverpool City Region continues to stand together with Manchester and all of those affected by the attack.

“Today we’ll be keeping the victims and their loved ones – including Liverpool’s Megan Hurley – in our thoughts.”

Half a decade ago, thousands of children and parents had enjoyed an Ariana Grande concert at the arena.

Manchester-born Salman Abedi, 22, surrounded by the throng of youngsters leaving the gig, exploded his shrapnel-packed rucksack bomb, sending thousands of nuts and bolts shredding everything in their path.

Along with the 22 bystanders killed, six of them children, hundreds more were injured.