FUNERAL - Tributes paid to 'beacon of light'

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IN a massive outpouring of grief hundreds of city people gathered to pay tribute to a teenager who was described as a "beacon of light" during his short life.

IN a massive outpouring of grief hundreds of city people gathered to pay tribute to a teenager who was described as a "beacon of light" during his short life.IN a massive outpouring of grief hundreds of city people gathered to pay tribute to a teenager who was described as a "beacon of light" during his short life.

More than 400 mourners, including his tearful schoolfriends, packed into Peterborough Crematorium to pay their last respects to 17-year-old Ross Parker, who was stabbed to death on a city cyclepath.

It has been more than a month since Ross died, but the intense emotion and feeling of loss hung heavily over his family and friends yesterday as they bowed their heads in remembrance. Some gave others a strengthening hug, or a clasp of reassuring fingers. They were together in shared sorrow.

They cried. No one tried to hide the tears, as a simple sentence from his distraught sister Leanne summed up all that they felt.

Bravely choking back her own tears, Leanne (22) addressed her brother with the farewell tribute - "Ross, you were simply the best."

Dressed in black and red, she told the mourners: "Even though he had only seen 17 years of his life, each and everyone of us here has been touched by Ross.

"But its his cheeky grin that we will never forget. Thats how we will always remember him, always smiling."

Rosss number 14 Netherton United football shirt was draped across the coffin as it was carried in past his team-mates dressed in the red strip he loved, as they formed a guard of honour at the door of the packed crematorium.

A large marquee put up at the side of the building was also full and the service was relayed on loudspeakers so as no one missed a word.

The Reverend Geoffrey Keating, from St Judes Church, in Westwood, Peterborough, said: "Ross was an extremely popular young man who was loved by everyone, and someone who everyone is going to miss greatly.

"We know his death is a tragic loss because we will never see Rosss full potential. But we have got lots of memories, and those memories are to be cherished and treasured.

"He was a beacon of light who inspired so many people. We know that that light will never go out and will be with us always."

In the congregation were work colleagues from the Solstice pub, in Northminster Road, Peterborough, former classmates from Jack Hunt school in Netherton, and police detectives leading the inquiry into Rosss death, including Detective Chief Inspector Dick Harrison and Detective Superintendent Dave Hankins.

Three uniformed officers stood outside throughout the hour-long service.

Rosss favourite songs, including Driftwood, by Travis, were played.

Teenager with everything to live for was stabbed to death

THE killing of 17-year-old Ross Parker shocked the whole city.

A young man with everything to live for, he was set upon by a vicious gang as he walked to a friends house in the early hours of Friday, September 21.

He had just finished work at the Solstice pub, in Northminster Road, Peterborough, and was strolling along a cyclepath close to Bourges Boulevard with a female colleague.

As the attack took place, the 19-year-old girl he was with ran for help, desperately flagging down a passing police car.

But when she and the police returned to the scene just minutes later, the gang had slipped into the night and Rosss life had been cruelly snatched away.

More than 70 police officers were immediately drafted in to help carry out searches of the area, house-to-house inquiries, interviews and to check CCTV footage.

Four city men have since appeared in court charged with murder.

Sarfraz Ali (24), of Harris Street, Ahmed Ali Awan (21), of Gladstone Street, Shaied Nazir (20), of Cromwell Road, and Ziaraff Mahrad (20), of Cromwell Road, have all been remanded in custody and are due to appear at Northampton Crown Court on December 18.

A 14-year-old city boy was also arrested on suspicion of murder, but was later released on police bail pending further enquiries.

In the aftermath of Rosss death tensions ran high, and there were calls for calm from his family and from community leaders.

Chief Superintendent Mark Hopkins, of Peterborough police, admitted the city had become "dangerously close" to being targeted by racists.

But the way the city pulled together, he said, had thwarted any racial violence erupting across Peterborough.