Her hands on the coffin, daughter says emotional final farewell to mother murdered saving her life
The daughter of a nurse stabbed to death on Christmas Day carried her mother's coffin in tears yesterday at her funeral.
More than 300 mourners gathered at St Patrick's Church, in Banbridge, Co Down on a freezing winter's day to pay their respects to Jayne Toal Reat (43), a mental health nurse at an Armagh Hospital.
Many of her work colleagues attended in uniform, while others wore items of clothing in her favourite colours of pink and blue.
During emotional scenes her daughter Charlotte, dressed in a blue coat and bearing cuts to her face, spent some time saying goodbye to her mother outside the church while placing her hands on the coffin.
With the support of a large crowd of family and friends, the 21-year-old bravely proceeded with the service.
The knife attack occurred at a property on Mornington Lane in Lisburn early on Christmas Morning.
Ms Toal Reat died in Charlotte's arms after she intervened to save her daughter's life.
A 19-year-old man, Nathan Ward, has been charged with her murder and the attempted murder of both Charlotte and his own father Joseph Tweedie, the deceased's partner.
Parish priest Canon Liam Stevenson said the devoted mother had been baptised in the same church over 40 years ago.
"We have all been shocked, upset and deeply troubled when news of her untimely death began to circulate on Christmas Day," he said.
"Those who knew Jayne well would have expected to be celebrating.
"But the opposite was to be the reality for all Jayne's family circle and friends.
"Instead, they were trying to absorb the reality of a sudden, unforeseen and violent death. What a contrast to the Nativity scene in the stable of Bethlehem."
Born in Banbridge on March 11, 1974, Ms Toal Reat helped out in her gran's confectionery shop growing up and studied in St Mary's Primary and St Patrick's College. She was an avid art student, and Fr Stevenson said some of her work was still on display at her old school.
After moving to Belfast to work in the hospitality industry, she married Simon, with whom she had Charlotte.
She later moved to Scotland and Cambridgeshire and resumed her studies, graduating as a mental health nurse, following in her late mother Anne's footsteps.
"The call of Banbridge, her native town, was strong and she returned with Charlotte and lived across the street from her mother," added Fr Stevenson.
"Charlotte and Anne bonded well together, as so often happens between granddaughter and grandmother.
"Jayne's mother fell ill and she helped nurse her, day and night."
Turning to Charlotte, he said her mother had been proud of her dancing skills, which she began to develop aged six.
"She was happy to see Charlotte go off to the United States, but insisted on four phone calls daily to keep in touch," he said.
"It's a very strong example of the closeness between Charlotte and Jayne."
He added: "Jayne found great friendship with Joe and she moved to Lisburn a few years ago to be close to him."
Concluding, he shared the family's appreciation for the many messages of loyalty and sympathy they had received from well-wishers.
As the funeral cortege left St Patrick's, nursing colleagues formed a guard of honour for Ms Toal Reat.
The service was followed by a private cremation.
Charlotte attended court to face her mother's alleged killer when he appeared in the dock.
She also shared on social media her last ever picture with her mother, which was taken on Christmas Eve.
"My mummy has been taken from me, her life was taken from her far too soon in the most cruel way," she said. "Love my angel with all my heart and soul. My life is changed forever but I can feel you giving me the strength to get you the justice and face the creature who murdered you."
At yesterday's service Mr Tweedie showed his support for his late partner's grieving daughter.
He earlier shared a picture on social media of the two, adding the message: "Love these pair so much, miss you Jayne."
Ms Toal Reat's brother Peter Toal commented: "All I can say is what a wonderful person she was, not only beautiful on the outside but even more on the inside.
"She really did have a heart of gold, she was a wonderful nurse, mother, sister and friend who followed in her mum's footsteps helping and caring for others the best she could.
"She didn't get it easy most of the time, but one thing she did get right was in the upbringing and her relationship with her daughter Charlotte, which she proved by making the ultimate sacrifice in the death of herself defending her.
"Anybody that knows them both will know the bond that they have - 'like two sisters' is all I used to hear."
He added: "Just when she had found happiness with her partner Joe, this was tragically taken from her."