FAMILY and friends gathered to pay an emotional tribute to a 13-year-old boy yesterday.

Liam Richardson, known affectionately as Roly, died two weeks ago when the stolen car he was in with three other teenagers careered out of control and crashed into a fence, in West Cornforth, County Durham.

Friends from Spennymoor Comprehensive School were among hundreds of mourners who packed into St Luke's Church, Ferryhill, for his funeral service.

Members of the Chilton detachment of the Durham Army Cadet Force formed a guard of honour as Liam's coffin was carried into the church.

The service started with Spennymoor headteacher Ken Hall reading a passage from the Bible.

Sixth-form student Hayley Guy read out a poem she had written for Liam.

The Reverend Keith Lumsdon, who led the service, said he hoped Liam's death would serve as a reminder to young and old alike to reject peer pressure.

He said: "Liam was a teenager growing up with all the problems teenagers face today. He succumbed to peer pressure and he could be easily led at times."

But he said: "Today we need to see beyond this tragedy to the real Liam. He participated in so much of the life of this community of Ferryhill."

Liam, who lived with mother Angela, stepfather Gary and younger brother, Ben, in Raby Road, Ferryhill, was in the Red Cross, many members of which were at the service.

He later joined the St Luke's Phoenix, then the Army Cadet Force, which was a big part of his life. He was very proud of his older brother, David, a serving soldier in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, and played the video of his passing out parade so often that it wore out.

Mr Lumsdon recounted a time when Liam set off to go swimming at the Dolphin Centre, in Darlington, but never made it past an Army recruiting stand. Officers even tried to sign him up, not realising he was only 13.

The guard of honour formed again as the mourners filed out and the service was followed by a private burial at nearby Duncombe Cemetery.

* A 14-year-old boy has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving and other related offences. He will appear before Newton Aycliffe magistrates on Monday.