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Last Updated: Monday, 21 January 2008, 13:51 GMT
Mourners pay respects to Hillary
Royal New Zealand Air Force personnel stand behind Sir Edmund Hillary's casket in Holy Trinity Cathedral
The body of Sir Edmund Hillary will lie in state for 24 hours

Hundreds of New Zealanders paid their respects to Sir Edmund Hillary, the first climber to scale Mount Everest, ahead of his state funeral on Tuesday.

Mourners gathered at Auckland's Holy Trinity Cathedral to file past his body as it lay in state.

Prime Minister Helen Clark, who attended a short ceremony at the cathedral, described Sir Edmund as "New Zealand's greatest hero".

The renowned climber died of a heart attack on 11 January at the age of 88.

Tuesday's state funeral will be broadcast across New Zealand and shown on a giant screen in an Auckland park.

'Stopped in their tracks'

Early on Monday, Sir Edmund's flag-covered coffin was brought into the cathedral, where he will lie in state for 24 hours.

A painting of Sir Edmund Hillary in New Zealand's Holy Trinity Cathedral
Tributes have been paid to the climber all around the world

Local Maori offered a traditional welcome as military personnel carried the casket inside.

The mountaineer's wife, June, and son, Peter, attended the ceremony, as did Ms Clark.

"People have been stopped in their tracks since they learned of Sir Ed's passing," she said afterwards.

"New Zealand has lost its greatest hero."

Governor General Anand Satyanand laid a wreath on behalf of the UK's Queen Elizabeth - who is also New Zealand's head of state.

About 100 members of the Nepalese community were among the first to pay their respects, as hundreds more people lined up outside the cathedral.

Tributes have flooded in from around the world since the death of the climber.

Sir Edmund became known all around the world after he and Tenzing Norgay became the first to scale the world's highest peak on 29 May 1953.

After the ascent, the New Zealander led several expeditions to the South Pole and devoted time to helping ethnic Sherpas of Nepal's Khumbu region through his Himalayan Trust.

SEE ALSO
Nepal mourns 'friend of Sherpas'
11 Jan 08 |  South Asia
'A few cautious steps'
15 Jan 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Tributes for Everest 'colossus'
11 Jan 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Obituary: Sir Edmund Hillary
10 Jan 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Life in pictures: Sir Edmund Hillary
11 Jan 08 |  In Pictures

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