Sunday 20 April 2014

"April was only five but she touched many lives"

The coffin of April Jones is carried by a horse-drawn carriage following her funeral service at St Peter's Church in Machynlleth
The coffin of April Jones is carried by a horse-drawn carriage following her funeral service at St Peter's Church in Machynlleth

The family of April Jones said a final farewell today as the town that shared their grief came to a standstill.

As the tiny white coffin carrying her remains was borne through the streets of Machynlleth in a white horse-drawn hearse, townsfolk stood in silence or followed behind, all wearing pink in tribute to the schoolgirl.

Mourners held each other for support as the coffin was carried into St Peter's Church, where the Rev Kathleen Rogers said: "We know that there are no words we can say at this moment to express what we are feeling.

"No words can alleviate our sorrow or take away our pain."

April parent's Paul and Coral and siblings Jazmin and Harley stood at the front of the church for the moving service.

Ms Rogers told the congregation: "We have come together to remember April in the presence of God. We have come to celebrate her short life and grieve together, to say goodbye.

"It's a bittersweet moment. Our hopes and dreams have changed because April has been taken from us.

"But you know, we come also with a sense of thanksgiving for the many ways that April touched our lives and those with whom she came into contact.

"For a five-year-old she touched a great many lives ... for Paul, Coral, Jazmin and Harley, April was and is extra special.

"But she touched us all and we think and feel differently because of the difference she made to us.

"Today, here in this place, she is linking us all together in grief. Yet, grief goes hand in hand with love.

"In whatever way we express our grief, it shows our love for April.

"And surely that is the most important thing for any human being of whatever age, simply to be loved."

Prayers were said for April - for the memories she left of times of "laughter", of "mischief" and times of "inquisitiveness" - as well as for her family and those who had helped them through what Ms Rogers described as their "darkest of days".

She extended thanks to everyone from Mr and Mrs Jones for their support over the last 12 months.

A message from Bishop of Bangor Andrew John was also read to the congregation.

It said: "The Diocese of Bangor is holding you as a family and as a community in its prayers. You are not alone."

Donations made at April's funeral will be used to sponsor a five-year-old girl in a village in Uganda in what Ms Rogers said was "an attempt to see some good out of this tragedy".

The service included Psalm 23: The Lord Is My Shepherd, and hymns including Memories Sad And Beautiful, and a Welsh hymn.

Closing the service, Ms Rogers said each sunrise and sunset would bring with it memories of April.

The cortege began its journey from April's home on the Bryn-y-Gog estate, from where she was snatched by her murderer Mark Bridger almost a year ago.

The cortege pulled onto the estate on an overcast day, as neighbours and relatives looked on.

The rural town was adorned with the five-year-old's favourite colour. Mourners lined the streets dressed in pink and ribbons hung from railings, shop windows and lampposts.

They were adopted as a symbol of hope that April would return home safe, but now serve as a sign of support to her family and a sign that people have not forgotten her.

The funeral service came five days before the first anniversary of April's murder and 10 days after an inquest released her remains to her family.

Tearful mourners stood in silence as the hearse carrying the coffin, which was decorated with the name April in pink flowers, passed by. Many clutched handkerchiefs as they wiped away tears.

The service at St Peter's Church, where pink floral arrangements had been brought by mourners, included prayers, psalms, readings and hymns, but no eulogies.

A message from April's family, written on the order of service, said: "Paul, Coral, Jazmin and Harley would like to say a big thank you to everyone for their overwhelming kindness, sympathy and support during this sad, sad time."

The coffin arrived at St Peter's to Emeli Sande's Read All About It played on loudspeakers outside the church.

Mourners filled the church then filled the graveyard outside, forming a sea of pink lining the path.

Among the crowds were members of the mountain rescue team, who helped search for April.

After the service, the funeral party left the church for a private burial.

The funeral was attended by members of Dyfed Powys Police.

They included the force's deputy chief constable Carl Langley; Inspector Gareth Thomas, who was involved in leading the search operation; Detective Superintendent Andy John; and family liaison officers Detective Sergeant Hayley Heard and Detective Constable Dave Roberts.

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