Heartbroken mum pays tribute to her young sons, who died after domestic disturbance
The heart-broken mother of two schoolboy brothers found dead after a domestic disturbance has spoken of "the most difficult time" of her life at their funeral.
Sally, bereaved mother of Adam and Matthew Stokes, said ahead of a church service on Monday: "This day has been long awaited."
More than 100 mourners, including school friends, gathered to pay their respects to the youngsters at St Mary's Church in Hinckley, Leicestershire, seven months after their bodies were discovered by police at their home.
The boys' father David Stokes (43) was also found deceased inside the address in the town's Welwyn Road in the early hours of November 2 last year, having suffered a stab wound.
The family have had to wait until now to be able to lay the children to rest.
As the coffins arrived at church, their mother broke down in tears and was comforted by close family as she prepared to say goodbye to Matthew, five, and Adam (11) one last time.
Bearers carried the boys' inside, each coffin topped with a single rose; one red, the other blue.
The five-year-old's coffin was accompanied by a Minion character, arranged in flowers of yellow and blue, while his older brother's arrived with a floral rugby ball.
Matthew's coffin was decorated with the things he had loved in life; the superhero Ironman, Transformers and Lego Batman, with yet another Minion animated character.
His brother's, befitting a keen football fan, was covered with images of Liverpool Football Club and Anfield.
The boys had been close in life, and on the end of each coffin was a photograph of the brothers pictured arm-in-arm walking, carefree, along a street.
A message read on behalf of the boys' mother by the curate of St Mary's, Rev Angela Tarry, said: "Sally and her family would like to thank her friends, Adam and Matthew's friends, and the whole community for all uniting together and showing such support at what has and continues to be the most difficult time of their lives."
The bereaved mother also thanked police for the "outstanding way they have and continue to deal with this tragic situation".
Sally also praised the church, school, her post-traumatic stress disorder counsellor and the medical staff who treated her.
During the service, friends and family heard how Adam "enjoyed life" and his "growing independence", listening to music on YouTube, playing on his Xbox, and enjoying rugby and football with friends.
Matthew was "extremely happy" and "seemed like a magnet to bumps and tumbles".
Preaching the sermon, Rev John Whittaker said of the younger boy: "He loved his mum and was very affectionate to her.
"'Miss you Mummy', he would cry out, as she left the back door of the house to put the washing out."
Rev Whittaker added: "The boys had a great time with each other.
"They loved their high-five moments in the playground, two boys equalled two sets of party invitations."
The boys' headteacher, Rachel Ayres, of St Mary's Church of England primary school which is next door to the church, paid tribute to the boys and said fellow pupils were still "struggling to come to terms" with their deaths.
She said the school had been left "deeply shocked and saddened by the deaths".
Mrs Ayres added: "They played a huge part in the life of St Mary's and had many friends.
"They were loved by their teachers.
"Whilst we know the boys are gone, we are remembering with fondness those happy memories which will live in our hearts forever.
"This morning we set off a red and a blue balloon in memory of the boys and a poem was read."
She added: "Rest in peace, Adam and Matthew."
The school had been closed at lunchtime as a mark of respect to the youngsters.
Rev Whittaker said the events of last November had "left a family and community devastated".
But he added: "At a time like this we see the best in people and the power of community."