Tragic April Jones begins her final journey
Published 26/09/2013 | 11:57
Murdered schoolgirl April Jones started her last journey today as her coffin left her home for an emotional final goodbye.
The mid-Wales town of Machynlleth prepared for its long-awaited farewell as the funeral cortege began its journey from April's home on the Bryn-y-Gog estate to St Peter's Church.
April's white coffin was taken from the house in a white carriage with glass windows, pulled by two white horses with their hair plaited with pink feather boas.
The cortege pulled on to the estate on an overcast day, as neighbours and relatives looked on ashen-faced.
The rural town was adorned with the five-year-old's favourite colour, as mourners lining the street dressed in pink, and ribbons were decorating railings, shop windows and lampposts.
They were adopted by locals as a symbol of hope that April would return home safe, but now serve as a sign of support to her family as well a reminder that people have not forgotten her.
The midday funeral service comes five days before the first anniversary of April's murder and just 10 days after an inquest released her remains to her family.
The funeral procession started at the Bryn-y-Gog estate, where April was snatched, which was also decorated pink.
On a communal piece of grass, just yards from her home, stands a memorial garden featuring a pink dolls' house, pink ribbons and scores of pink flowers.
Earlier April's father Paul inspected flowers and dolls left at the garden, which has become a focal point for locals.
Mr Jones, 41, stood for a period of quiet reflection with relatives before heading back inside to brace himself to say a final goodbye to his much-loved daughter.
The carriage left for the one-mile journey with Coral and Paul Jones and April's sister and brother, Jazmin and Harley, following by car. They were joined by mourners on foot all wearing pink clothing or ribbons.
The town came to a standstill as the procession made its way to the church.
Tearful mourners looked on as the hearse carrying the coffin, which was decorated with the name April in pink flowers, passed by.
Many clutched handkerchiefs as they wiped tears from their eyes.
Today's 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."
A poignant montage of photographs depicting April at play as she grew up was shown to mourners on a flat screen TV in the church.
Put together by April's sister Jazmin, 17, the montage formed part of her recent GCSE school project and features photographs taken from the family's personal album.
Two poems, written by local man Jim Marshall and inspired by the abduction of April, will be read out at the service, one by April's head teacher Gwenfair Glyn.
One is simply called April, the second is An Autumn Night.
A message will also be read out from Bishop of Bangor Andrew John.
A neighbour of Coral and Paul, who did not want to be named, said it was a relief for many that the schoolgirl could finally have a proper funeral: "I can't really explain how I feel about today. It still feels unreal - everything that happened.
"In a sense, everyone around here feels a bit relieved that April can finally have a proper funeral.
"The fact that Coral and Paul have been denied that for so long because that scumbag Mark Bridger refused to say what he did with April's body has made their pain even worse.
"I'm hoping that today will help April's family gain a degree of closure - though they'll obviously never get over what happened.
"People here will never forget April and will always be here for her family."
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.
As the tiny coffin was carried by family members, April's mother Coral wept, holding her hand to her face, comforted by Paul, while other relatives fought tears.
Mourners held each other for support as the coffin was carried inside, many wiping tears from their eyes.
Among the crowds were members of the mountain rescue, who helped search for April.
Beginning the service, the Reverend 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."