Pain etched on their faces, young pall bearers carry the coffin of their schoolboy pal at his funeral in Belfast.
They were among hundreds of mourners who came to pay their final respects yesterday to 12-year-old Stephen Stewart who is believed to have taken his own life. The youngster was found dead at his home in Crumlin last week.
Following Mass at the Holy Cross church in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast yesterday morning, Stephen’s body was brought to his home village for burial.
The pain of the tragic death was clearly visible on mourners’ faces.
Many of them were Stephen’s classmates and friends — who took turns to carry his coffin up the Crumlin Road.
Parish priest Father Aidan Troy said: “There were a lot of tears but also a sense of solidarity and a sense that we have got to stick together.”
Young Stephen was on the point of starting Year Nine at the Edmund Rice College on the Hightown Road in Glengormley when he was found dead at home in Crumlin.
His father, also called Stephen, has expressed his shock at the tragedy, so soon after the family had returned from an enjoyable holiday in Turkey.
He told the Irish News: “None of us expected this. It sounds funny to say because he was only 12 but he lived life to the full.
“I've never heard anyone say a bad word about him. He was so active. He was into everything from quad biking to jet skis, boxing and he was a great wee Gaelic footballer.”
Mr Stewart said the support of friends and neighbours had helped him, his wife Martine and their daughters Toni (20) and Ciarrai (18) get through the tragedy.