THERE were six smiling faces before horror and tragedy struck. Now there were six little coffins, six stolen lives.
One by one, the bodies of five young brothers and their 10-year-old sister were laid to rest yesterday exactly six weeks after an arson attack at their home.
Scores of neighbours, friends and relatives stood in silence as a cortege of horse-drawn carriages made its solemn procession through streets cleared of traffic along the route to the children's funeral.
But two faces were missing. The youngsters' parents Mick and Mairead Philpott — in jail awaiting trial for their murder — were refused leave to attend amid fears they would provoke what was described as a "lynch mob" atmosphere at which their safety could not be guaranteed.
The couple had been branded "scum" by members of the public during two court appearances, and Father Alan Burbidge, who was helping to organise the funeral — paid for by members of the public — had warned the ceremony would be "very difficult" if the parents attended.
And so, in a service attended by mourners wearing brightly coloured clothes and carrying single yellow roses, six white coffins bearing each child's name were buried in their absence. Instead, other family members led a packed congregation in prayer at St Mary's Roman Catholic church in Derby before a private burial nearby.