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Funeral tributes to blaze brothers

Two boys who died in a house fire thought to have been started by their father have been described as "a shining light" at a funeral service attended by hundreds of people.

Talented musician Jack Sykes, 12, and his aspiring athlete brother Paul, nine, died after a blaze at their father's home in Penistone, South Yorkshire, last month.

Today, family and friends packed St John's Church, in the Pennine town, and scores more braved atrocious weather outside to form a "circle of love" in the churchyard.

There was silence and tears in the town centre as the two white coffins were carried into the church with the boys' mother, Claire Sykes, leading mourners behind.

The hour-long service had no hymns, but was instead packed with tributes, stories and songs.

"Yes, Jack and Paul's lives were cut short but I think we'd be doing both them and Claire a disservice if they were to be remembered for the tragic nature of their death," Andy Platt, the head of Springvale Primary School - where Paul was a pupil and Jack a former pupil - told the congregation.

"Instead, let's try and remember the shining light that was their lives."

The two boys were rescued from the house in Tennyson Close, Penistone, along with their father, Darren Sykes, on October 22.

But Paul and Mr Sykes, 44, died later the same evening.

Jack was taken to a specialist unit in Manchester but died almost a week later.

Detectives have confirmed the fatal fire was started deliberately but said they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the investigation.

Mrs Sykes said on a specially set-up Facebook page that her estranged husband, the boys' father, had murdered them.

Father David Hopkin, who led the service, said the brothers had been looking forward to Christmas when they died.

"The Argos catalogues are still where they left them under the TV," the vicar said.

"And, apparently, their Christmas list was endless."

He said: "They were both very caring and loving towards each other quite literally right up to the end of their lives.

"The last words spoken by the boys were words of love to their mum as she dropped them off at school.

"On the Wednesday morning, as always, they would both respond to their mum's words 'love you' with the words 'to infinity and back'.

"Today the circle of love formed around this church is a beautiful gesture."

The vicar said: "It is so important we find a voice today as a community together and that we say to this town and to world about us that we are not being defeated in the face of what human beings are capable of."

All those offering tributes talked about Jack's musical talent. He was an exceptional trumpet player who performed the Last Post at Penistone Grammar School's Remembrance Service last year.

His brother was a runner who held records at his primary school for his sprinting.

Jo Higgins, the principal of Penistone Grammar, where Jack was a pupil, read tributes from dozens of students and teachers at the school.

The brothers' cousin Jo Hamer said they were "two fantastic little men".

After the service Mrs Sykes was comforted by relatives.

Clearly upset, she approached each of the coffins in turn after they were placed back in the black hearses, before getting into another vehicle.

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