THE family of John Alder, the Newcastle United fan who died in the Malaysian Airlines crash last week, have thanked people for their support.

Family members in Darlington issued a statement through Durham Police saying: “We would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and wishes and incredibly generous gestures, particularly those who have been able to share personal memories of John.

“We are struggling to comprehend what has happened but we are touched and moved by your kind words, acts and the knowledge that so many people saw John for who he was: a kind, courteous man who was much loved as a son, brother, uncle and fan.

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"Newcastle United was his life and we are proud of his dedication to the team.

“Our thoughts are with Liam's family and the families of the other passengers at this terrible time.”

Mr Alder and fellow Toon fan Liam Sweeney died when the plane crashed in eastern Ukraine on Thursday.

They had been travelling to New Zealand to watch Newcastle play in a pre-season tour.

Mr Alder, who was in his sixties, had not missed a game since 1973.

Meanwhile it has emerged that a disabled child being looked after by a North-East charity due to fears that family members had been lost in the MH17 disaster has in fact not been affected by the crash.

The Tyneside-based Percy Hedley Foundation is a regional education and care charity working with disabled children and adults.

The foundation yesterday said it was "believed" one of the children it cares for had lost family members on the flight.

A spokeswoman issued a clarification today, saying that turned out to be false.

She said: "On Friday 18 July we were informed by the Philippines Embassy in London that the family of a disabled child in our care were passengers on board flight MH17.

"Late on Saturday evening we received final confirmation, again by the appropriate authorities, that this is not the case and the family are safe.

"The charity will make no further statement at this time and asks that the privacy of those concerned is respected."