Schoolgirl, 14, killed in Manchester bombing was 'one-in-a-million'

Teenager tells how her ‘irreplaceable’ 14-year-old best friend who was killed in Manchester Arena terror attack was ‘one in a million’

  • Nell Jones, 14, was one of 22 people killed in attack at Manchester Arena in 2017
  • Teenager had gone with her friend, who was seriously injured in the bomb blast
  • One of her friends, Olivia, said in a statement to inquiry she was ‘irreplaceable’  

in a million’. Schoolgirl Nell Jones was one of 22 people killed in the attack at an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017

The best friend of an 14-year-old maths prodigy who was killed in the Manchester Arena attack has told an inquiry she was ‘irreplaceable’ and ‘one in a million’.

Schoolgirl Nell Jones was one of 22 people killed in the attack at an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017.

Nell had gone to the concert with her friend, Freya Lewis, who was seriously injured in the attack.

The teenager is said to have had a wide circle of friends, who included Freya, but was one of a close group of four who were ‘always together in school and out.’

One of her friends, Olivia, who met her at primary school, said in a statement read to the inquiry: ‘Nell was the best friend anybody could wish for, always wanting to help people out. She was very confident too, while I was the shy one.

‘There were times when we didn’t have to say anything to each other, we could just look at each other and burst out laughing. No one else would understand but we would know.’

Olivia added: ‘She was the one I could share anything with. If I searched the world over I would never find someone as loyal, caring, funny and full of life,’ Olivia said in a statement read to the inquiry.

‘She was one in a million and she will live in my heart for ever. One word I would use to describe her is irreplaceable, she will be my best friend for ever.’

Farmer’s daughter, Nell Jones from Goostrey in Cheshire, excelled in English and maths and was placed on the gifted and talented register at school.

When she was 13, she took part in the Kangaroos school maths challenge and was awarded gold.

Nell had gone to the concert with her friend, Freya Lewis (pictured), who was seriously injured in the attack

Police help survivors at the scene of the Manchester bombings which  killed 22 in May 2017

She was also known for her love of ballet, contemporary dance and musical theatre, and enjoyed the music of Ed Sheeran and Adele.

Brought up on a turkey farm, one of her favourite things was becoming a member of the Knutsford Young Farmers, her family said. 

Alex, another of Nell’s close friends, said she had ‘never met a girl who was so passionate and positive about life.’

She described her friend as ‘intelligent and organised’ and said she ‘loved everything from maths to art and drama.’

They enjoyed Christmas markets, skating in the park, going to the cinema and the young farmers club.

‘Our little loving friendship groups had never been happier, I could never have imagined the death of our small village girl who grew up on the family turkey farm would become world news. I feel very honoured to tell people I knew Nell on such a personal level.’

Nell’s brother, Sam, read the tributes at the inquiry into the bombing, saying: ‘Although she excelled at school, Nell was always very modest about her ability and always thought of others as being far clever than her.

‘It was on the stage where everyone really saw Nell shine. Nell loved entertaining others with her bright, bubbly vibrant personality she put her heart and soul into every performance she did, giving her audience plenty to remember.’

In the tribute, her parents, Jayne and Earnie (CORR) said she was always keen to learn new things from her first steps and tying her shoe laces to learning to ride a bike, ‘she would persevere relentlessly until she mastered it.’

At school ‘she hated any form of unkindness and would protect her friends to the hilt,’ and she ‘soaked up everything she was taught like a sponge,’ they said.

22 people were killed in the terror attacking which took place during the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena in May 2017

Her brother said Nell ‘lit up our days with her energy and passion for life’ adding: ‘Every day was an adventure to Nell and we were all carried along with her.

‘The thought of the years ahead without her in our lives is truly unbearable and I have no words to describe the pain and grief which we feel each day but those 14 wonderful years that we shared together and the memories we made were truly special.

‘We loved Nell with all our hearts and we always will.’

Mrs Bebbington, her primary school teacher, described her as a ‘fabulous role model to look up to’ and a ‘wonderfully talented girl who showed an aptitude for so many things.’

Her English teacher at Holme Chapel Comprehensive School remembered her as a ‘human being with a big heart’ who ‘worked hard and surrounded herself with friends who had the same work ethic and thirst for life.’

‘Those qualities would undoubtedly have taken Nell far, unfortunately we will never know just how far,’ her brother said.

Her drama teacher said her ‘big heart was matched with a big personality and a big talent’ and her music teacher said she ‘stood out as a star right from the start.’

‘She had a smile and a quiet confidence that lit up any stage, a wonderful, caring young girl with an infectious smile,’ the teacher added.

Sir John Saunders, the chairman of the inquiry, said: ‘All of your family have every reason to be so proud of Nell.

‘What comes over most strongly is the sense of loss everyone feels over her death and my overwhelming impression is, what a loss.’

Mother killed in Manchester Arena terror attack was ‘just being a mum’ by picking up daughter from Ariana Grande concert

A mother killed instantly in the Manchester Arena attack became a ‘guardian angel’ to her daughter who ‘amazingly’ survived, an inquiry into the bombing has heard.

Company secretary Michelle Kiss, 45, was ‘just being a mum’ as she waited in the foyer on the evening of May 22 2017 to collect her youngest child after an Ariana Grande concert, said husband Tony.

Company secretary Michelle Kiss, 45, was ‘just being a mum’ as she waited in the foyer on the evening of May 22 2017 to collect her youngest child after an Ariana Grande concert, said husband Tony

He said his wife had visited the venue ‘many times’ with their three children to watch various concerts and events, including her favourite band Take That on six occasions.

He said: ‘How sad to think that a place that brought so much joy to our family would be the place forever to take away that joy.

‘On that fateful night Michelle was just waiting for our daughter. She was just being a mum. Michelle died but somehow my daughter survived amazingly and so, so thankfully she was physically unscathed. However, the horrors that she must have witnessed in the aftermath of the explosion are fully known only to herself.

‘I like to believe though that in their last moments together she brought some comfort to her mum. I also like to think of her at the moment of their parting as her mum’s little guardian angel because I know that Michelle became her guardian angel in that same very moment.’

His tribute – read by close family friend Mark Dickson – told of how the couple from Whalley, Lancashire, became childhood sweethearts and later ‘soul mates’ as they married on the beach in Barbados in 1995 and went on to have three children, Dylan, 23, Elliott, 20, and their daughter in 2004.

He said: ‘It seemed from the moment we met to the moment my children were born that we had been building the edges of our family picture. Now our family was complete.

‘We knew we had an exciting lifetime ahead of us all and we wanted to fill it with so many more beautiful memories. We were all so happy.’

Her sudden death had left ‘an emptiness’, he said.

Mr Kiss went on: ‘I will never stop loving my children or Michelle and I will never stop doing my best for each of them, I will never stop trying. They were always our first priority and they will continue to be mine. I am sorry this has happened to them, to us. It’s not fair.

‘I will always try to ensure that our children seize the opportunities that life offers just like their mother did. Michelle Kiss. Just saying her name breaks my heart because I know so many beautiful moments from our futures have been taken away from us all.

‘The bomb didn’t just destroy the lives of 22 people in the arena that night, it changed the lives of every family member that lost a loved one. They know what I mean.

‘It damaged those who were injured and their families and many more people present, and not present, on the night who were also affected so deeply.’ 

The commemorative part of the hearings will conclude this week. The public inquiry, chaired by Sir John Saunders, is to examine the background to the attack by suicide bomber Salman Abedi and the response of the emergency services and will conclude next spring.

 

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