April Jones: Hundreds attend Machynlleth funeral
The funeral service for April Jones has taken place in her hometown of Machynlleth, mid Wales.
Her white coffin was transported from her family home to St Peter's Church in a white and glass hearse, drawn by two white horses wearing pink feather plumes.
Hundreds of mourners followed the procession and lined the streets.
Five-year-old April was murdered by 47-year-old Mark Bridger almost a year ago.
Members of the search and rescue team that helped look for April were lined up outside the church. As the carriage arrived, police saluted and bowed their heads.
A poignant montage of images of April played on a flat screen TV taken from the family's own album of images.
Opening the service, the Reverend Kathleen Rogers, told the congregation: "There is nothing to express the grief, the shock, the pain, the emptiness, the anger, the despair which overwhelms us.
"We honestly come before you asking for strength in time of darkness.
"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."
Two poems were read at the funeral both written by a local man Jim Marshall.
The first was called 'April' and was read by Sian Calban, a teacher at April's school.
The second poem was called 'An Autumn Night' and was read by head teacher Gwenfair Glyn.
Following a traditional service of hymns and prayers, Mrs Rogers said: "Each sunrise, each sunset we will remember April."
April's coffin was carried from the church to the strains of Emeli Sande's Read All About It.
A private burial was later held at the town's cemetery where April's family released pink balloons.
Donations made at the service will be used to sponsor a five-year-old girl in Africa, the town's vicar has said.
April was abducted by Bridger while playing near her home in Machynlleth on 1 October last year, sparking the biggest missing person search in UK police history.
Bridger was jailed for life after being found guilty at Mold Crown Court in May following a month-long trial.
COMMUNITY SHOWS UNITY WITH MACHYNLLETH
A service paying tribute to April Jones took place in Welshpool on Thursday at the same time as her funeral in Machynlleth - nearly 40 miles away.
April's favourite song, believed to be Black Heart by the girl band Stooshe, was played, and a specially-written poem by a local resident was read at the service outside the town hall.
Traffic was stopped in the town's main street while a minute's silence was observed and local vicar Steve Wilson led people in prayer. Mayor John Meredith also addressed the service.
Welshpool town clerk Robert Robinson said April's death touched so many people that the town council felt it had to mark her funeral.
Despite one of the biggest search operations in police history, April's body has never been found but police recovered tiny fragments of bone at Bridger's home.
Mrs Rogers said donations would be used to sponsor a child in Uganda, via the charity World Vision.
"It is a little girl of five from Uganda and it's all done in memory of April," she said, explaining she would be sponsored until she completed her education.
"Other donations will be an extra gift for the girl, her family and her village to use as they need. The parish will receive regular updates and photographs about the girl as she grows up," she added.
Ms Rogers said it was important the family has a chance to say their goodbyes properly.
"It's hopefully a beginning of an ending, a beginning of an acceptance perhaps of this awful tragedy that has happened," she said.
"Everybody needs that and more so perhaps in this case because it's been such a horrific case.
"The police didn't find April's body but following the inquest what we do have are some of her remains that we are able to bury.