Liverpool taxi bomb: what happened outside Women’s Hospital - and who is terror suspect Emad Al Swealmeen?

Taxi driver David Perry has been praised for his ‘heroic’ actions during the incident

The man who died after his home-made bomb exploded in a taxi outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital has been named as 32-year-old Emad Al Swealmeen. According to a couple who took him in, in 2017, he was an “absolutely genuine” Christmas who had a “real passion for Jesus Christ”.

The suspect reportedly had an asylum claim rejected in 2014.

Four men who were arrested under the Terrorism Act have now been released from police custody.

The incident, which has been declared a ‘terror incident’ took place on Remembrance Sunday (14 November) shortly before the national two minutes’ silence was due to begin at 11am.

This is everything we know so far.

What happened in Liverpool?

At 10:59pm on Sunday (14 November), police were alerted to reports of a car explosion at the city centre Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

A statement from Merseyside Police explained that the car involved in the explosion was a taxi which pulled up to the hospital shortly before the explosion occurred.

The taxi’s passenger, Emad Al Swealmeen, was declared dead at the scene. The driver of the taxi, who has been named locally as David Perry, was injured at the scene and taken to hospital, but was later discharged.

According to unconfirmed reports, Perry pulled up outside the hospital and locked the suspected bomber and the “improvised explosive device” inside the car prior to the explosion.

Police officers at an address in Rutland Avenue in Sefton Park, after an explosion at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital killed one person and injured another (Photo: PA)

Joanne Anderson, the Mayor of Liverpool, praised the “heroic” driver for his efforts to reduce the impact of the explosion.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “The taxi driver, in his heroic efforts, has managed to divert what could have been an absolutely awful disaster at the hospital.

“Our thanks go to him and our emergency services, and authorities have worked through the night to divert anything further and we’ve all been on standby and in constant contact to provide any support that’s needed.”

She added: “Well, we knew that the taxi driver had stood out and locked the doors, we knew that early on.”

What happened on the ground?

On Sunday (14 November), images of a car on fire at the scene began to circulate online, as well as footage of a number of loud bands, and billowing smoke near the entrance to the hospital.

The timeline of the Liverpool explosion (Graphic: JPIMedia/Mark Hall)

On Monday, people were being allowed back in and out of the hospital, but officers could be seen at the entrance to the building. Police were also stopping cars for checks as they entered the car park.

The explosion has been declared by police as a terror incident, with the motivation for the attack “yet to be understood”.

Head of Counter Terrorism Police North West Russ Jackson has said that investigating officers could not “at this time draw any connection” with Remembrance Sunday events being held near the hospital. However, he did confirm that it was “a line of inquiry”.

Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, Serena Kennedy, said that incidents like the explosion ‘are very rare’ (Photo: PA)

Police searches have been carried out at an address in Rutland Avenue, where detectives said Al Swealmeen was picked up by the taxi, and at a second property in Sutcliffe Street, where officers believe he previously lived.

Who was arrested?

Four men, aged 29, 26, 20 and 26, were arrested in connection with the blast under the Terrorism Act.

They were interviewed by Counter Terrorism officers but have since been released from police custody.

Three men - aged 29, 26, and 21 - were detained in the Kensington area of the city and arrested under the Terrorism Act in connection with the incident (Photo: PA)

Jackson said that the four men arrested were believed to be “associates” of the taxi passenger who died.

He said: “Following interviews with the arrested men, we are satisfied with the accounts they have provided and they have been released from police custody.”

Who is terror suspect, Emad Al Swealmeen?

The suspect in the taxi has been named as Emad Al Swealmeen.

Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Meeks said: “Our inquiries are very much ongoing but at this stage we strongly believe that the deceased is 32-year-old Emad Al Swealmeen.”

Al Swealmeen is said to be connected to both the Rutland Avenue and Sutcliffe Street addresses, where searches are still ongoing.

Meeks said: “We believe he lived at the Sutcliffe Street address for some time and has recently rented the Rutland Avenue address.

“Our focus is the Rutland Avenue address where we have continued to recover significant items.

“We continue to appeal for any information about this incident and, now that we have released his name, any information that the public may have about Al Swealmeen no matter how small may be of great assistance to us.”

A motive for the incident remains unclear.

Police officers carrying out forensic investigations at the scene of the car explosion (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Al Swealmeen was taken in by couple Malcolm and Elizabath Hitchcott in 2017 after his asylum appeal was reportedly dismissed.

He reached out the the couple as he was “desperate for somewhere to stay”.

Mr Hitchcott told BBC Radio Merseyside: “He arrived here on April 1, 2017. He was with us then for eight months, and during that time we saw him really blossoming in regards to his Christian faith.

“He really had a passion about Jesus that I wish many Christians had, and he was ready to learn.

“He was keen on reading his Bible and every night we used to pray – my wife and him, and if there was anybody else in the house – we prayed for half an hour or so and studied the scriptures. We had a great time together.”

Mr Hitchcott added: “He was absolutely genuine, as far as I could tell. When you live with somebody in a small terraced house… you learn an awful lot about people and how their habits are, how they relate to one another, the things they think about, it’s a good assessing ground.

“I was in no doubt by the time that he left us at the end of that eight months that he was a Christian.”

He added that Al Swealmeen had changed his name to Enzo Almeni – after the renowned motorsport figure Enzo Ferrari – to shorten it and “make it more European” and “not for any ulterior motive”.

Describing the moment he found out what had happened, he told the BBC: “I just couldn’t believe it. I was absolutely stunned.

“Here was a chap who was very calm, measured, very deep thinking, but a lovely man with it.

“I only saw him lose his temper once, which is when he thought I was tampering with his mail, but he apologised for that fairly soon afterwards.

“He was a lovely fella. You would say he wouldn’t harm a fly, but he is the sort of chap who considers things deeply first… he was a pleasure to be with.”

Mr Hitchcott added that he hadn’t spoken to Al Swealmeen in four years and there may have been “changes in his personality and his beliefs” during that time.

What did the hospital say?

Throughout most of Sunday, hospital patients were being diverted from Liverpool Women’s Hospital to other hospitals “where possible”.

The latest statement from the hospital said that “patients are no longer being diverted to other hospitals” and “appointments will be going ahead as normal unless advised otherwise by the hospital”.

It said: “Anyone with appointments at the hospital will notice an increased security and police presence on site.

“Where possible we ask that anyone attending the hospital avoids bringing their vehicle.

A police officer stands guard outside the Women’s Hospital in Liverpool following the blast (Photo: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

“Until further notice anyone attending with a vehicle will need to park either in our overspill car park on Mulgrave Street (off Upper Parliament Street) or in designated parking spaces in residential areas near to the hospital.

“All access into the hospital building is via the new Neonatal Unit entrance until further notice.”

The hospital added: “We would like to say thank you for the co-operation and support of our patients, visitors and staff who have been impacted by this incident.

“We would also like to say thank you to Merseyside Police, Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service and all other emergency services who have supported the Trust.”

What has Boris Johnson said?

Following the news of the blast, Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “My thoughts are with all those affected by the awful incident in Liverpool today.

“I want to thank the emergency services for their quick response and professionalism, and the police for their ongoing work on the investigation.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel also tweeted: “I am being kept regularly updated on the awful incident at Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

“Our police and emergency services are working hard to establish what happened and it is right they are given the time and space to do so.”

What is the UK terror threat level?

Speaking to broadcasters, Priti Patel said that the terror threat level has been raised due to the fact that there has been two attacks in the space of a month.

The UK threat level has been raised (Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

She said: “The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, Jtac, are now increasing the United Kingdom’s threat level from substantial to severe.

“And there’s a reason for that, and that reason is because what we saw yesterday is the second incident in a month.”

A severe threat level means that an attack is “highly likely” according to the Government.

Priti Patel said: “Following [Sunday’s] shocking incident in Liverpool, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre has raised the UK Threat Level to severe.

“It is important that the public remains alert to the threat from terrorism but not alarmed. I urge anyone with information or who suspects any suspicious activity to report it to the police.”

The last time the UK threat level was severe was in November 2020, before being lowered to substantial in February 2021.

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