Community’s outrage as bench dedicated to Sheffield victim of Manchester Arena terror attack is destroyed by arsonists: ‘It's caused revulsion’

A bench dedicated to a Sheffield victim of the Manchester Arena terror attack has been destroyed by cruel arsonists who caused a blaze that also damaged a vital community centre.

By Richard Blackledge
Sunday, 7th March 2021, 6:16 pm
Updated Sunday, 7th March 2021, 6:24 pm

The bench remembered Kelly Brewster, aged 32 – who died in the bombing which killed 22 people after an Ariana Grande concert at the arena in 2017 – and was installed close to the Arbourthorne Social Centre on East Bank Road in Arbourthorne where she lived.

Ben Miskell, Labour councillor for Park and Arbourthorne, said the fire began at around 7pm on Saturday. The incident was caught on video – footage shared on social media shows the bench well alight, with thick black smoke rising from intense flames.

"Those responsible should be ashamed of themselves,” said Coun Miskell. “Not only have they destroyed a bench dedicated to a young woman who tragically lost her life in a terror attack, but they have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to a well-loved community centre.”

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The centre, owned by Sheffield Council, is used by the Arbourthorne Tenants and Residents’ Association for meetings and social events like bingo.

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“The TARA are looking through their CCTV and working with the police to try and identify those people who were responsible,” Coun Miskell told The Star. “The thought is that it was certainly a deliberate act to set fire to that bench. It's something that has really caused revulsion in the community.”

As well as ruining the bench, the fire has damaged the centre inside and outside.

Kelly Brewster's parents Kim and Kevin sitting on the bench installed in 2018. Picture: Steve Ellis.

“With the fire brigade having to put it out, they had to douse the building with water which has then got through to the ceiling,” said Coun Miskell. “There's some parquet effect flooring that has been brought up as well.”

It is understood discussions are taking place about a replacement bench or memorial.

"I think there was some chatter about offers for support,” said Coun Miskell, who added that money will also need to be found to repair the centre. “It's difficult when finances are really tight and hopefully we're looking forward to being able to use that building when restrictions are eased. Some of the older residents are crying out for that social interaction.”

Anyone with information should call South Yorkshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Councillor Ben Miskell at the scene of the fire in Arbourthorne. Picture: Ben Miskell.

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Kelly Brewster. Picture: South Yorkshire Police/PA Wire.