Myths of Manchester: The Trafford Centre Body Bags

Is there 4000 body bags hidden away in a room in the bowels of The Trafford Centre? Err.....

By Ben Brown | Last updated 30 March 2020

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Okay. I know that you know, but I still don’t think some people know but after this they will. I used to work at The Trafford Centre.

What seems like a magical shopping and entertainment destination for millions of people every year, quickly turns into just another place of work when you end up there every day, pissing about in loading bays and asking people if they’re “alright today”.

Working in such an isolated and sometimes insular place, there’s all manner of rumours that turn up amongst the staff.

One that was certainly knocking about when I was there and has proved almost impossible to quell is that there is a LOAD of body bags hidden away in the basement of the building “just in case of an incident”.

Estimates of how many body bags are down there range from 400 to 4000, but where did these rumours originate and is there any truth to them? Well, I feel it’s my civic duty to find out – let’s see shall we…

First of all, I think it’s important to look at potential reasons why this myth exists. The main factor is certainly the idea that shopping centres are a prime target for terrorism, something which has affected the main shopping areas of the UK since the days of the IRA.

Of course, everybody remembers the IRA bomb in 1996 in the heart of Manchester’s main shopping area (and on a Saturday afternoon no less), but there is no shortage of other, similar occurrences that have happened around the world since then.

There’s the Omagh car bombing in 1998 which was similarly detonated on a busy high street on a Saturday afternoon and tragically killed 29 people and injured 220 others.

There’s the terror incident in a Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in 2013 that killed 67 and wounded 175, while July 2016 saw a non-terror related event where ten people were killed and 36 injured in a shopping mall in Munich.

So, the threat is very real. And this is something that has spawned not just rumours and myths, but whole industries of private security firms who want to try to capitalise on the ‘safety’ of people in shopping centres or districts.

I suppose one of the big catalysts for many terrorist networks is a hatred of Western capitalism, something that is unmistakably accentuated in shopping malls; pretty much the embodiment of everything these people despise and want to fight against.

With such threats out there in the world, the employees and visitors of The Trafford Centre (and other UK shopping malls), must look to security and the police to feel safe and secure in their place of work. And as a result, the body bags myth seems to be a rather macabre by-product of this.


A quick search on the Internet comes across a whole spate of similar urban myths emanating from the staff at other large UK shopping malls. In fact, there was a pretty big rumour knocking about Sheffield in the 90’s about the ‘Bodybags at Meadowhall’, as well as almost identical claims from Cribbs Causeway and Bluewater.

Is it true? Well, no probably not I’m afraid. Sorry. The existence of the bags is not only strenuously denied by ALL of the shopping centres, I feel it also diminishes the hard work that the security and police actually do in these establishments when faced with terror threats and issues.

Of course, while working there over my 4 years there were quite a few incidents of ‘terrorism’ which all ended up just being someone chatting complete blarney – but the police and security work tirelessly to respond and prepare against anything happening.

This includes performing ‘terror training exercises’, which are now (unfortunately) a requirement for pretty much all venues which attract a large number of people, as well as extensive CCTV and a long list of risk assessments and emergency procedures that are followed to the dot.

And anyway – if something actually really big and really serious was to happen in Manchester and there was a need to evacuate, the police wouldn’t send people to shopping centres – they’d send them to stadiums – structures that are designed to contain extremely large crowds and numbers of people safely.

Sending anyone to The Trafford Centre in an emergency is a terrible idea – all most people will do is try to loot a load of TV’s. I certainly would.

Oh yeah and one final thing. If this was true there would almost certainly have been a cleaner or a caretaker or someone who’s seen them and taken photos or a little video in order to get a load of money off the papers.

It’s not happened ONCE since the Centre opened in 1998 – with the likeliest story being that they don’t exist. Sorry.