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The last person in the line: joy and sadness as stewards close queue for Queen’s lying in state

Chrissy Heerey who serves in the Royal Air Force and is from High Wycombe was the last person to view Queen Elizabeth II lying in state.
Chrissy Heerey who serves in the Royal Air Force and is from High Wycombe was the last person to view Queen Elizabeth II lying in state. Photograph: Andrew Quinn/PA

The final person to pass through Westminster Hall for the lying in state of the Queen before her funeral on Monday has spoken of the “real privilege” of her experience.

Chrissy Heerey, a serving member of the RAF from Melton Mowbray, said it was “one of the highlights of my life” to file past the Queen’s coffin at 6.30am, as it closed after four and a half days.

Speaking to PA Media and the BBC, Heerey said: “I was the last person to pay my respects to the Queen and it felt like a real privilege to do that. It’s one of the highlights of my life and I feel very privileged to be here.”

Sima Mansouri, the second last person to see the Queen lying in state, said that she thought she and Heerey would be “friends forever” after bonding in the queue.

Mansouri said: “Everybody just wanted to come together and be happy and peaceful and talk about memories. With Chrissy [Heerey] it was amazing. It felt like we knew each other forever. She was a little nervous, being the last person, but I said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ve got your back. I’m here’.”

Sima Mansouri, 55, who was the second last person to view Queen Elizabeth II lying in state.
Sima Mansouri, 55, who was the second last person to view Queen Elizabeth II lying in state. Photograph: Andrew Quinn/PA

Officials have not yet said how many people took part in the queue, which peaked at about seven miles in length, but it is expected to be in the hundreds of thousands. It closed just after 10.40pm on Sunday, with those already given a wristband told they would be guaranteed entry.

The Queen’s coffin will be taken from Westminster Hall, the cavernous 11th-century structure at the heart of parliament, for the short journey to Westminster Abbey at 10:44am before a state funeral attended by many dozens of world leaders and heads of state.

In a vast security operation, the area around Parliament Square and the abbey was sealed off on Monday, apart from groups packed six deep along the north side of the square, by Whitehall, where the cortege will begin its trip to Windsor after the funeral.

The queue to see Queen Elizabeth II lying in state in Westminster Hall shortly before it closed.
The queue to see Queen Elizabeth II lying in state in Westminster Hall shortly before it closed. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Among the public mourners, two distinct groups could be seen: those who arrived overnight, with coats and bags but little more, and the long-termers with their camping chairs, sleeping bags and supplies of snacks.

Near the corner of Whitehall and Westminster Bridge, Mary Foster, from Petersfield in Hampshire, and her friend Bill Powell, who has come from Toronto in Canada, were swiftly identified by fellow gatherers as the longest serving, having arrived on Friday afternoon.

The pair, sitting by large bags containing camping gear and a small tent, initially set up opposite Westminster Abbey, but were moved on when security plans changed.

“They were very good to us,” Foster said. “They knew we had been here the longer so they made sure we had the best spot here as well.”

Powell said the pair had not endured much poor weather: “Some light drizzle at night,” he said. “But nothing a Canadian can’t handle.”

Meanwhile, train services at Paddington station were suspended, disrupting the journeys of thousands of mourners attempting to reach London or Windsor for the Queen’s funeral. Great Western Railway (GWR) said all lines between the west London station and Slough, Berkshire, were blocked due to damage to overhead electric wires. The problem was affecting journeys for passengers travelling from Reading and Heathrow airport.

Services run by GWR, Heathrow Express and the Elizabeth line were disrupted. The lines between Reading and Newbury were also closed after a person was hit by a train. This was causing GWR trains to be diverted, delaying journeys to the capital.

The issues come during one of the UK’s biggest transport operations as mourners descend on London and Windsor.