HUNDREDS of people gathered to pay their respects to a 20-year-old soldier whose funeral was held today (Tuesday, February 11).
Silence quickly fell among the more than 450 mourners packed into an ordinary Stockton street as Private Codie Richardson’s coffin, held in a carriage drawn by white horses, came into view.
The family, friends and Pte Richardon’s fellow Royal Dragoon Guards, had come to honour the beloved young woman who died in a car crash at Catterick Garrison along with Trooper Mark McKeen, 23, from Northern Ireland.
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Flowers spelling the words ‘sister’ and ‘daughter’ adorned the carriage and Pte Richardson’s coffin, her soldier’s beret on top, was removed and carried by her fellow soldiers into St Michael’s and All Angel’s Church in Norton, Stockton.
Sarah McLachlan’s song, Angel, which contains the words "you’re in the arms of the angel, may you find some comfort here", was played as the mourners filed into the Grade II-listed church, packing the chapel to the door. So many people came that many had to stand and more than 100 could not get into the church at all.
Many of those inside laughed in affection as Pte Richardson’s cousin, Danniika Pickard, remembered their close childhood friendship in a personal tribute read out by army padre Kevin Jones.
There were smiles as Miss Pickard remembered their ‘bushtucker trial’ eating games, escaping from their bedroom windows and, when a little older, their talks about boys.
But the laughter turned to tears as Miss Pickard’s plaudit said: “When I found out you had died, I realised I wasn’t crying for you, but for all the things you used to do.
"I cried because I knew you would never do them again. From your terrible dance moves to your horrendous jokes, you always had us laughing.
"You had the most amazing blue eyes, and contagious smile. You had the ability to light up the whole room. You never did realise how truly beautiful you were. You had a heart of gold, always putting everyone else first before yourself."
There were more tears as James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful was played and more tributes were made by army colleagues and family members.
The service ended to Passenger’s song, Let Her Go, as Pte Richardson’s coffin was solemnly returned to the white, glass carriage which contained a notes from her four sisters.
One from her mother, Carol, simply said: “My beautiful daughter...you made us so proud...sweet dreams, darling.”