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A brave man has described how he tried to save the life of the passenger now known to be a suspected terrorist after a taxi blew up outside the Liverpool Women's Hospital.
Liam Spencer was with his girlfriend on Sunday November 14 when they were unwittingly caught up in the terror attack on the specialist medical facility, a major obstetrics, gynaecology and neonatology research hospital.
The 21-year-old from Childwall, Liverpool had worked at the WH Smith inside the hospital for around 18-months before starting his new job as an Asda delivery driver a few weeks ago.
Liam and Stephanie, 20, were driving into Liverpool city centre when he decided to stop off at the hospital and say hello to his old colleagues.
Liam told the Liverpool Echo: "I thought I'll just swing by and say hello to everyone. I pulled up and said I should only be five or 10 minutes and told for her to wait [in the car].
"I walked in and I was having a chat with my old colleague. But as I was getting ready to leave, I just heard this explosion – this loud bang.
"At first I thought it could have been a car crash but I thought that's awfully loud for a car crash.
"I ran out and saw the car had exploded. My first thought was just to grab my girlfriend and get her close to the building or inside so she's out of the way.
"I never saw the driver get out so I ran to the driver's side of the car to see if he was still in there, or if anyone else was still in there.
"Then I saw the driver [outside the vehicle] who was in quite an awful state standing with the security guard in the ambulance bay.
"I went back to the car because I was asking if anyone else in the car, but I don't think they quite understood what I was saying because everyone was in shock.
"I ran back to check and that's when I saw the man in the car.
"He was on fire."
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Liam said he was unable to comment if the passenger and now terror suspect, Emad Al Swealmeen, was still alive at this point.
Liam said: "I just seen him and the top half of his body through the rear door.
"I think the door had been blown off, I can't really recall. But I remember it being slightly open.
"I didn't want to injure myself but I was looking at the best way to get him out of the car.
"I initially went close to see if I could grab him because the flames weren't as big at that point.
"As I got close the flames engulfed him and that's when I ran to go and get a fire extinguisher and then the security came out with one."
Soon after the explosion happened, flames had completely engulfed the vehicle which had stopped right next to where Liam had parked his own car.
Liam said: "I thought, 'Oh s**t' because the car next to mine had started to go on fire.
"I thought if my car goes up it will take the whole hospital so I thought I'll try and move it.
"My [Ex] colleague shouted to me, 'What are you doing you f*****g idiot, get out of the car, it's not worth it!'
"I then I realised, what am I doing in this car, my life's not worth it so I just got out."
Emergency services arrived and put out the flames and police secured the car park and front entrance of the hospital.
Liam and Stephanie, who lives in St Helens, were sat in the foyer of the hospital waiting for police to take a statement. This, he said, took a couple of hours because officers were trying to contain the situation and make sure the hospital was still accessible to the public.
Liam said: "Stephanie was quite shaken up. I was alright for about an hour – it hadn't really hit me.
"We didn't know it was a terrorist incident at the time. I just thought if that had been any worse I could have lost her – then it started to really upset me, how it could have been a lot different."
After finding out the next day that the explosion was now being treated as an act of terrorism, Liam said he and his girlfriend were "shocked" by the news. Since the bombing, Liam said that police and intelligence services have been in regular contact.
He added: "We still can't believe it's real. My girlfriend is still suffering with her ears a lot because she was in the car.
"She's really drained from it all. I'm really drained from it myself – I'm struggling to sleep because of it.
"I keep thinking about the situation and then the adrenaline comes back to me. I just keep thinking about how it all happened so quickly."
Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson, Head of Counter Terrorism Policing North West, said: "The investigation into the terrorist incident at Liverpool Women's Hospital on Sunday 14 November continues.
"The taxi in which the device exploded has now been removed and today line searches by specialist officers will take place at the Hospital which could go into tomorrow.
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"The post mortem on the deceased has taken place and the cause of death has been described as injuries sustained from the fire and explosion.
"A complex picture is emerging over the purchases of the component parts of the device, we know that Al Swealmeen rented the property from April this year and we believe relevant purchases have been made at least since that time.
"We have now traced a next of kin for Al Swealmeen who has informed us that he was born in Iraq.
"Our enquiries have found that Al Swealmeen has had episodes of mental illness, this will form part of the investigation and will take some time to fully understand.
"There is much comment in the media about Al Swealmeen and it is clear that he was known to many people.
"We continue to appeal for people who knew him, especially those who associated with him this year as we try and piece together the events leading up to this incident and the reasons for it.
"At this time we are not finding any link to others in the Merseyside area of concern but this remains a fast moving investigation and as more becomes known we cannot rule out action against others."
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