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Funeral of jet crash 'gentle giant'

Newcastle United fan Liam Sweeney was "a gentle giant" and a "family man", the funeral of the first British victim of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 to be identified has been told.

Hundreds of mourners joined his family and friends at St Mary's Cathedral in Newcastle to remember the 28-year-old, who had been on his way to New Zealand to watch his team play.

Among the floral tributes were the words Grandson, Friend and Son, as well as a Newcastle shirt and scarf which were placed on his coffin.

Manager Alan Pardew, club captain Fabricio Coloccini, managing director Lee Charnley and assistant manager John Carver also came to pay their respects to one the club's most dedicated supporters.

Afterwards they were seen greeting and hugging the family, including Mr Sweeney's father Barry, and passing on their condolences.

The service heard that Mr Sweeney was a family man and a gentle giant who always had a smile on his face.

Mourners were told that he loved reading, especially Lord Of The Rings and Animal Farm, and also loved watching The Simpsons.

A poem was read out during the service, which included the words: "If the Toon were playing you were there, win or lose through bad and good, Newcastle United were in your blood."

Canon Robert Spence said Mr Sweeney deserved his place in Geordie mythology and the scarf and shirt had been placed on his coffin as a sign of his commitment to the team.

He said this commitment led him to watch not only the first team, but also the under-21s and the club's academy.

Prayers were said for the family of John Alder, a fellow fan who also died on the doomed flight, asking that they would find peace.

Canon Spence commended the unity shown by Newcastle and Sunderland fans since the tragedy, as tens of thousands of pounds was raised by the rival supporters for charity.

The order of service included some pictures of Mr Sweeney and the words of the hymns Be Still And Know I Am With You and Here I Am, Lord.

Mourners were then invited to St James's Park for refreshments.

After the jet was downed in Ukraine, hundreds of tributes and flowers for Mr Sweeney and Mr Alder were left outside the stadium. On Sunday relatives of both fans laid flowers in the centre circle and a minute's silence was held before the home game against Manchester City kicked off.


From Belfast Telegraph