Sussex

Hayley Okines: Mourners celebrate teenager's short life

Hayley Okines Image copyright BBC news grab
Image caption Hayley Okines died in her mother's arms on 2 April

Butterflies and brightly-coloured clothes were the order of the day for the 250 mourners who gathered to celebrate the short life of Hayley Okines, who died earlier this month at the age of 17 from progeria.

She was diagnosed with Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome at the age of two, which caused her body to age eight times faster than normal, and she died in her mother's arms on 2 April.

Turquoise was one of the teenager's favourite colours and she was brought to All Saints Church, in Sidley, East Sussex, in a tiny coffin of the same colour.

Friends and family, lead by her mother Kerry, walked behind the hearse for the short distance from her home.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Friends and family, lead by Hayley's mother Kerry, walked behind the hearse carrying her coffin

Kerry Okines and Hayley's two older sisters, Stacey and Charlotte, then carried the coffin into church.

Hayley's two chihuahua puppies were also taken in to the funeral service.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Hayley's coffin was carried into the church by her mother Kerry and two older sisters, Stacey and Charlotte

Some of the mourners had travelled from the US, Holland, Belgium and Portugal to pay their last respects.

The Prince of Wales led the tributes to Hayley, dubbed the "100-year-old teenager", in a letter sent to her parents and read out in church, describing her as "an inspiration to millions".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Prince of Wales met Hayley at the Children of Courage event in 2004

Prince Charles recalled how he had met her at the Children of Courage event in Westminster Abbey in 2004, and was "deeply impressed by her incredible spirit and her infectious love of life".

Hayley's younger sister Ruby sang a song called You're Free, before telling the congregation that "she could not have asked for a better sister".

In an emotional tribute, Mrs Okines then spoke of her "little chick" who had made her "the proudest mum in the world".

"You are the reason why I got out of bed in the morning and managed to put one foot in front of another."

Image copyright BBC news grab
Image caption Hayley loved butterflies and her favourite colours were turquoise and pink

Hayley's father Mark spoke of his "very special girl" in a poem read out in church.

Speaking afterwards, school friend Rachel Blackmore, 16, recalled how she "lit up the room" every time she entered it.

Another friend, Connie Barton, 15, added: "We had loads of sleepovers, and did lots of girly things together, and were always giggling."

The funeral service was followed by a private cremation.

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