David Perry says Emad Al-Swealmeen flashed him a “clown-like smile” in his rearview mirror before setting off an improvised explosive device at the entrance to Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
A year on from the terror attack last Remembrance Day, the 46-year-old cabbie says the blast could have killed dozens of new mothers and babies.
He said he feels lucky to have cheated death himself, saying: “Even now I don’t think anyone can understand how I’m alive.
“The injuries are nothing when you think he could have gone into the hospital and done a lot more damage.”
An inquest on December 30 last year found the device, manufactured and carried by passenger Al-Swealmeen, 32, had been “designed to project shrapnel, with murderous intent”.
David reckons it was “fate” he was the one to collect the bomber on November 14 last year, after choosing the fare himself.
He said: “It was a normal day, get up and go to work. But it’s the strangest thing, I thought ‘Something is going to happen today’.”
Like other cabs in the fleet of his firm Delta, David’s had an on-screen display showing pick-up addresses of customers who had called in. He chose to collect what turned out to be the bomber because the address, Rutland Avenue, was nearby.
He said: “I thought, ‘I’ll take that, I’m not that far away’.”
As he pulled up at the block of flats, David was forced to wait twice as long as he normally would for a late customer, because another car had blocked him in.
When his passenger finally got in, David recalls: “He had a middle eastern accent. I can remember him having a backpack or bag.
“He was so quick getting in and getting on the seat and then sliding in behind the seat. He sunk in out of the way in my blindspot. I thought, ‘This isn’t right, why is he doing this?’ All he said was, ‘Women’s hospital’.”
David, who has always enjoyed chatting to his fares, was unnerved: “I can remember just before getting to the hospital, saying to him, ‘Has your wife had a baby mate?’ I got no response and I thought, ‘Something’s not right here’.
“I’ve looked in the mirror and I’ve just got this picture of a clown smiling at me and holding something.”
Then the bomb went off – and David’s first thought was: “Why has a wagon just smashed into me from behind?”
As he detected the smell of burning flesh, he realized he had been blown up.
He recalled: “A flash of light hit me and I just woke up. I couldn’t see anything. There was just white smoke in my face. All I could smell was burning. I could smell him burning, I was burning. I knew he was all over me.
David Perry “When I looked down there was just a little bit of light where the door had billowed open at the bottom and I just heard, ‘Get out’.”