Manchester bombing victim Saffie Rose laid to rest

Saffie Rose Roussos came to Manchester in May a happy, smiling eight-year-old to see her pop idol perform on the most exciting night of her young life.

On Wednesday, the youngest victim of the Arena bombing returned to the city in a casket, followed by her heartbroken family and hundreds of tearful mourners, for her funeral.

Saffie Rose Roussos

Saffie Rose Roussos

Saffie was among the throng of elated youngsters leaving Manchester Arena after the Ariana Grande concert, the treat a Christmas present from her parents, when suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated his home-made bomb packed with nuts and bolts.

She died, from multiple injuries, along with 21 others, seven of them aged under 18.

Her mother, Lisa Roussos, 48, who was gravely injured herself, left hospital on Wednesday to perform the hardest task of any parent, saying goodbye to her child and in the most horrific circumstances.

Saffie's wicker casket, adorned with roses, arrived in a silver hearse at Manchester Cathedral followed by the funeral cortege from Wythenshawe Hospital, where Mrs Roussos is still receiving treatment for her injuries.

Saffie Rose Roussos

Saffie Rose Roussos

She emerged from the lead car, refusing the offer of a wheelchair, instead pausing, limping, but determined to walk into the cathedral for her daughter's service, watched by dozens of well-wishers standing outside.

Her right arm in a sling and hand bandaged up, she carried a red rose in her other hand.

Saffie's father, Andrew, 43, nodded to his son, Xander, 10, hugged by his step-sister Ashlee Bromwich, 23, and his wife, who replied with a weak smile.

Along with five others, Mr Roussos became a pall bearer for his daughter as her coffin was carried inside for the start of the service, just a few hundred yards from the scene of her death.

Hundreds of mourners were already inside, many carrying a single rose in memory of Saffie, a request from the family who invited anyone who had been touched by her to come to celebrate her short life.

A moving montage of photos, set to the music of Grande's hit One Last Time, forming part of the funeral ceremony, was released by her family and friends.

The YouTube video clip shows a series of family snaps, Saffie happily playing with her brother Xander, smiling alongside her parents on family holidays, wearing make-up and dressing up.

Saffie's friends hope the video, which will be shown at her funeral, will be liked and shared using the hashtag #Saffiethesuperstar to fulfil her dream of becoming a YouTube star.

A letter written by Miss Bromwich to her younger sister was read to the service.

In it she said: ""I wish I could do justice with my words, but how can it be enough to describe the way you lit up our lives. The greatest gift.

"Nothing more, nothing less than I could ever have wanted in a little sister.

"You gave love and life a whole different meaning.

"Everything I do from this day forward will be all for you"

Saffie's headteacher, Chris Upton, read a eulogy in which he described her as loving her family dearly and having another love in her life - Ariana Grande.

He said: "The irony of this tragedy is that the concert was a wonderful experience for her, the happiest Lisa and Ashlee had ever seen her.

"Lisa rarely watched the stage that evening, but, instead, her beautiful daughter who knew every song, sang every word and danced - I mean really danced - and didn't have a care in the world.

He said the eight-year-old had a "quiet confidence", was a friend to everybody and was "clearly destined for great things".

He said: "As you leave the cathedral today, try and be a little bit more like Saffie - ambitious, good-humoured, loving and passionate.

"The world will truly be a better place."

Video messages from Saffie's friends and teachers were played to the funeral in which they recalled their memories of her.

The Very Rev Rogers Govender said 22 bees were to be placed in the furniture of the cathedral as a memorial to the victims of the bombing.

He asked Mrs Roussos to hold one of the model bees as he dedicated it to Saffie.

He said the service was a "poignant moment" for Saffie's family but also for the people of Manchester.