Heartbreaking farewell at funeral for Belfast teen Katie Ballentine
Hundreds of mourners lined the Shankill Road yesterday for the funeral of tragic teenager Katie Ballentine.
The former pupil at Belfast Girls' Model School died suddenly last Friday and her body was discovered at a house in north Belfast.
Police have said that they are not treating her death as suspicious.
A private funeral for the 16-year-old took place yesterday afternoon at her family home in Crimea Court with Pastor Sam Moreland from Malvern Assembly Church leading the service.
A large crowd gathered outside with some shops closing their shutters as a mark of respect.
Before the funeral cortege proceeded to Roselawn Crematorium, balloons were released from the front door of her home.
DUP MLA for North Belfast William Humphrey and Alderman Brian Kingston visited the family on Tuesday to pass on their condolences.
Mr Humphrey said: "Her parents asked that we make it known that they would wish that any donations in memory of young Katie should be made to Community First in recognition of the caring support that this group provides for so many people in need within the community."
Heartbroken friends continued to pay respects to the popular teenager on social media.
Living Hope Church on the Shankill, where the teenager had attended the youth club when she was younger, held a special service on Monday evening.
Senior pastor Matthew Davis called for greater focus on helping young people.
"I think there is an epidemic of suicide in our area which isn't being properly reported," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"It's taken nearly 900 lives in Northern Ireland in the last three years, the highest on proportion in the UK," he said referencing official statistics between 2014 to 2016.
In 2016, the figures showed north Belfast had the highest rate in Northern Ireland with 41 deaths recorded.
"This has nothing to do with the community a victim comes from," Mr Davis said. "There are lots of good organisations who do good work, but there just isn't enough resources for them and the community is suffering."
Around 100 people attended the open prayer meeting on the Shankill for Ms Ballentine on Monday.
"As a church we had to have some sort of response," Mr Davis said.
"Heartbreak was the word I would use for the mood. We prayed for an hour.
The pastor added: "It's been about six years since Katie attended our youth club, but even if she hadn't attended, every time we hear of a suicide of a young person there is always a connection to so many people because it's such a small and tight knit community here on the Shankill Road."
If you are affected by any issues in this article, call the Samaritans on 116123 or Lifeline on 080 8808 8000