Belfast Telegraph

Firefighter at Manchester IRA bomb is victim of Sri Lanka horror

Bomb victims Bill Harrop and his wife Dr Sally Bradley
Bomb victims Bill Harrop and his wife Dr Sally Bradley
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

A hero firefighter who was among the first on the scene of the 1996 IRA Manchester bombing was among the victims of the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka.

Bill Harrop (56) and his wife Dr Sally Bradley were confirmed among the eight Britons killed in the suicide bombings on Easter Sunday.

Mr Harrop had risked his life during the Manchester attack, which injured 212 people, and had been officially commended for his heroism.

Remarkably their son Gavin - who was also in Sri Lanka at the time - survived the blasts, which targeted churches and hotels.

More than 320 people were killed and at least 500 were injured after suicide bombers attacked three churches, four hotels and a block of flats in Colombo.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the massacre.

It is believed Mr Harrop had recently emigrated to Australia with his family after retiring and was on holiday in Sri Lanka at the time of the bombings.

Mr Harrop was a station manager at the time of the Manchester bomb, commanding one of the first crews on the scene.

Both Mr Harrop and his team desperately searched for a second device and tended to the injured following the bomb which at the time was the biggest to explode on mainland Britain.

The couple's friend Dave Keelan, who is assistant county fire officer with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, described their deaths as "devastating news".

"Bill served here for 30 years, retiring at the end of 2012. He was a much loved and respected colleague and friend. He will be greatly missed," he said.

Gary Keary, Fire Brigades Union brigade secretary, also paid tribute to the hero firefighter and his wife.

"The FBU is shocked and saddened to hear of the loss of former firefighter Billy Harrop and his wife and send deepest condolences to his family and friends," said Mr Keary.

Kevin Brown, former Fire Brigades Union secretary, said Mr Harrop was a "real character". "He led the Philips Park team in response to the IRA bomb in Manchester in 1996 and received a commendation for his actions in the incident," he said.

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed the attack yesterday via its Amaq news outlet. Sri Lanka's government had previously blamed the blasts on local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ).

Sri Lankan prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the government believed the attacks could not have been carried out without links to terror groups abroad.

He said: "There had been training given and a coordination which we are not seeing earlier."

The first mass funeral was held yesterday as the country marked an official day of mourning for the victims. A state of emergency remains in effect to prevent further attacks.

Police have now detained 40 suspects - all are Sri Lankan nationals.

The country's defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene told parliament that "preliminary investigations" indicated that the bombings were in retaliation for deadly attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March, but gave no further information.

Belfast Telegraph


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