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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Josh Halliday North of England correspondent

Brianna Ghey funeral: hundreds pay tribute to murdered teenager

Mourners leave St Elphin's Church at the end of the funeral service of Brianna Ghey.
Mourners leave St Elphin's church at the end of the funeral service of Brianna Ghey. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of mourners have gathered to pay tribute to the murdered teenager Brianna Ghey, who was described in a moving funeral service as a “true one-off, unique and truly unforgettable”.

The 16-year-old was found with fatal stab wounds in a park in the village of Culcheth, near Warrington, on 11 February. A boy and a girl, both 15, have been charged with her murder and are due to go on trial in July.

On Wednesday, Brianna’s friends and family were joined by local dignitaries and members of the public to pay tribute to the teenager.

The coffin of Brianna Ghey is carried into St Elphin’s Church.
The coffin of Brianna Ghey is carried into St Elphin’s church. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Wearing pink at the request of the teenager’s family, they filled the aisles of St Elphin’s church, in Warrington, with some mourners having to listen to the service outside in the rain.

One of Brianna’s friends, Kiera, remembered her as a “beautiful, amazing, fun, intelligent angel” whose “soul was always too good for this earth”.

The front page for the Order of Service at the funeral of Brianna Ghey.
The front page for the Order of Service at the funeral of Brianna Ghey. Photograph: Cheshire Constabulary/PA

Another, Amelia, said of the teenager, who was transgender: “I love you so much my heart is more than broken. We would FaceTime every day. I loved every second of talking to you.

“We have grown together and progressed through our transition together. You made me laugh when I was down, you made me smile, I know you’re here with me.”

In tributes read by the Rev Debbie Lovatt, Brianna’s friends described her charismatic, brave, eccentric personality. They recalled how she would FaceTime them singing the X-rated Bimbo Doll by Tina Tsoli, dance around their house singing songs by the American rapper Doja Cat, and how she would Snapchat them each morning while she was getting ready.

Another friend, Lucy, became tearful as she described Brianna as “light on earth,” saying “nothing can replace the way she made you feel”.

She added: “She was kind and she was caring and we knew that she was always there for you. She found a way to make things that didn’t feel like they were worth something, worth something. She found a way to make people carry on when they didn’t want to.”

The horse-drawn carriage carrying the coffin of Brianna Ghey.
The horse-drawn carriage carrying the coffin of Brianna Ghey. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

Carrying pink balloons and wearing t-shirts emblazoned “Rest in power”, mourners stood in silence as Brianna’s pink and white coffin arrived at the church in a cortege led by two white horses, decorated with pink plumes.

Instead of flowers, Brianna’s family had asked for donations to the charity, Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP). MiSP delivers training for teachers and builds lessons for children with the aim of helping pupils navigate difficulties in life.

Mourners arrive at Elphin’s Parish Church, in Warrington.
Mourners arrive at St Elphin’s. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

On a tribute page, Brianna’s mother, Esther Ghey, said her daughter had “struggled with her mental health” and said she wished “there were better resources to support her when she needed it”.

She added: “I’d like to sponsor a teacher in as many local schools as possible and raise awareness of the importance of taking care of mental health in our society. I believe that our children are struggling with their mental health more than ever. I hope that by supporting organisations such as MiSP, we can help children live healthy fulfilled lives.”

Brianna’s school, Birchwood community high school in Warrington, described their former pupil as a “true one-off, unique, and truly unforgettable” and that it was a privilege to know her.

In a tribute read at the funeral, the school said: “At school we will all miss Brianna’s bravery and courage. We will miss her determination and grit. We will miss her wit and her humour. We will even miss her insults and her putting us all in our place, as she so loved to do.

“We are so glad that Brianna came to join us at Birchwood. We are so glad that she was part of our school community as we learned so much from her. We learned so much about strength and determination to be one’s true self, and that is something that we will all carry with us.”

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