PEOPLE turned out in force to pay tribute to a soldier who died in a car crash while on leave from Iraq.

Some mourners had to stand outside St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church at Langley Moor, near Durham City, to hear the requiem mass for Lance Corporal Mark Dixon, 22, who served in the 1st Battalion of the Scots Guards.

L Cpl Dixon died in an early-hours accident near Bearpark within 48 hours of returning on leave to stay with his mother in South View, Medomsley. No other vehicle was involved.

Friends, family and members of his battalion, some of whom travelled from Iraq, attended the service, which was followed by burial in Medomsley Cemetery.

Guardsman Terrence Brown, played the Last Post, and Lance Corporal Jock Ritchie played Flowers of the Forest on the bagpipes.

L Cpl Dixon had been on a three-month tour of duty, serving with the 600-plus-strong battalion near Basra in southern Iraq.

Padre Norman McDowell, chaplain to the battalion, said that L Cpl Dixon had served four years with a reconnaissance platoon, which was an unusually long period of time.

His death, the chaplain said, had come as a shock to his comrades because it happened on leave in a car accident.

He said soldiers expected that they might die as a result of enemy action or an accident involving the heavy equipment or explosives they used.

"You don't envisage that when someone goes on leave it will end in tragedy.''

Padre McDowell said he was passing on the shock and grief of his brothers in arms.

He paid tribute to L Cpl Dixon's professionalism and that of his comrades whose works had enabled Iraq's parliamentary elections to take place.

L Cpl Dixon, who joined the regiment in August 2000, was a popular and loyal soldier.

As well as mother Julie, 43, he leaves a father, Anthony, 44, a road worker from Lancashire, and a 23-year-old brother, Darren, a bricklayer.