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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Frances Kindon

Boyzone slept with Stephen Gately’s coffin on church floor because he hated being alone

It was 13 years ago today that Boyzone star Stephen Gately died aged just 33, leaving his bandmates heartbroken.

When news of his shock death from an undiagnosed heart condition at his holiday home in Majorca broke, Ronan Keating, Keith Duffy, Shane Lynch and Mikey Graham immediately flew out to the Spanish island to bring their 'brother' home.

At Stephen's funeral on a gloomy October morning in 2009, the four men carried his coffin on its final journey, their eyes rimmed with red, their faces etched with sorrow.

By 9am, locals in the working class area of North Strand, Dublin - where Stephen grew up - were out in their gardens.

Boyzone members carry the coffin of Stephen Gately outside St Laurence O'Toole Church in Dublin (PA)

The friends he'd made as a celebrity - including Westlife, Louis Walsh, Jason Donovan and Vanessa Feltz - mingled with the friends he'd known since childhood.

Messages of condolence were received from George Michael, David and Victoria Beckham, Take That, U2, Simon Cowell, Robbie Williams, Cheryl Cole, Sharon Osborne and Colin Farrell.

Elton John - who had introduced Stephen to his husband Andrew Cowles - was touring in Switzerland but sent a large bouquet of yellow flowers.

And his partner, David Furnish, said Elton was 'completely bereft'.

"I just feel incredibly sad, it just seems so unfair, I just can't make sense of it. I know when Stephen died he was the happiest he's ever been in his life," David said.

Ronan was fiercely protective of Stephen, as were his other bandmates (Press Association)

"I think sometimes God wants the good pure souls early and that's the way I think of it. I can't make sense of it any other way because he was such a good man."

Inside the chapel, every aisle was adorned with lillies - Stephen's favourite flower, and pictures of the star throughout his life were displayed in the walls.

Loved ones left gifts at the alter, including a Mickey Mouse teddy to signify his love of Disney and "belief in fairy tales", moisturiser to reflect his love of beauty products and a microphone as a symbol of his voice.

But it was the eulogy from Boyzone that proved to be the most heart-rending, with Ronan struggling to speak through his tears.

"We have lost a brother and I have lost my wingman," he said, his voice cracking.

Waiting for his breath to steady, he continued, "He will live on in our songs and whenever us four are together, his spirit is alive. But it will never be the same without him.

"A beautiful man who is now the perfect angel. Forever young and never forgotten. A man, a friend, a brother, a son, a husband and a hero.

"I'm going to really miss you brother, I love you, we always will. But we know you've found peace. Perfect peace."

He promised to finish the fantasy novel Stephen had been working on, titled The Tree of Seasons, and sang the hymn Happiness before the tearful band lifted Stephen's coffin and carried him out of the church for a private cremation Glasnevin Cemetery.

And in one final act of devotion, it emerged that the band had spent the night before camped out on the floor of St Laurence O'Toole Roman Catholic church to keep Stephen's coffin company.

They made the brave decision after his devastated mum worried that her son didn't "like to be alone". Determined to take care of him, they laid their sleeping bags the floor and kept vigil.

"We cried and we laughed and we could hear him telling us jokes and we could hear him answering back..." Ronan later told Sky News of the 'beautiful, amazing' experience.

Stephen's bandmates flew to Majorca to bring his body home (FilmMagic)

At around 6am they emerged from the church and gave their sleeping bags to fans who'd spent the night outside.

After the funeral, they gave their brother one last knees-up, remembering their beloved friend in an emotional late-night meal with manager Louis Walsh, Westlife and David Furnish.

They sang songs, drank bottles of vintage champagne and shared stories about Stephen at Dublin's Four Seasons hotel until the early hours.

One onlooker told The Mirror: "Ronan, Keith, Shane and Mikey arrived together after the funeral and looked down-hearted. The strain of the day had taken its toll.

"But they decided Stephen deserved a good send-off so they picked themselves up and celebrated his life with some of his closest pals.

"It was like a who's who of the Irish pop world with the Westlife lads and Louis Walsh at the head of the table. Louis later put a card behind the bar and told everyone to drink whatever they wanted because it was on him.

"It was great to see everyone with a smile on their face at the end of the night. They obviously got a lot of strength from being together.

"At one point some of the lads were sitting in the corner of the room and they started singing ballads and swapping funny stories about Stephen."

The stars finally left around 2am and embraced each other before being whisked off in black cars.

And Shane told how Stephen would live on in the four members of Boyzone.

Shane said: "The past week has been terrible for us. But we want Stephen to live on through every one of us in everything he does. He is with God now. He is in a better place.

"He was our brother and we will miss him for the rest of our lives. We will never forget him."

What do you think of Boyzone's selfless gesture for Stephen? Share your thoughts in the comments section below...

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