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 Saturday, 25 January, 2003, 15:54 GMT
Shocked community pays its respects
Mourners gather outside Manchester Cathedral
Mourners outside listened in silence to the service

Under grey skies and buffeted by winter winds, thousands of Mancunians gathered to say farewell to Detective Constable Stephen Oake.

The bustling cathedral area of the city was brought to a near-silent standstill as mourners and shoppers stood and paid their respects.

In a city which has seen its share of violence and tragedy, the sense of shock felt by the community was striking.

The gratitude and respect felt for a brave officer who died trying to protect his city from terrorism was written on every face.

Mourners listen to DC Stephen Oake's funeral
Mourners clutched orders of service as they listened to the funeral

The St George's flag on top of the cathedral was at half mast as mourners - many brought in by specially laid-on buses, made their way to the service.

They included Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie - invited by DC Oake's father Robin.

A police guard of honour stretched from the cathedral down the route of the procession as far as the eye could see.

And finally the cortege arrived, led by a troop of police on horseback, wearing full regalia.

The crowd stood silent watching the sombre spectacle of the coffin, draped in a black Greater Manchester Police flag, being carried by DC Oake's colleagues into the church.

Lesley Oake and her children
Lesley Oake and her children clung to each other for support

Newly widowed Lesley Oake and her children - Corrine, 12, Becki, 14, and 15-year-old Chris - followed behind, clinging onto each other for support.

And some officers wiped away tears as their former colleague's coffin was taken past them.

The crowds, clutching orders of service, then listened to the funeral which was relayed by loud speakers positioned around the cathedral.

Only a few wandered off. The rest stayed, sung along to the hymns, but otherwise remained silent.

Police horses in full regalia
The cortege was led by a troop of police on horseback

Mr Oake's father, Robin, told mourners it was his "humble privilege" to welcome them to a celebration of his son's "rich and fulfilled" life.

He said it was wonderful to see so many friends, family and colleagues inside the cathedral and apologised to the hundreds standing outside.

Mr Oake, a former chief constable of the Isle of Man, added: "Steve's book, if I may describe his life in that manner, has had many chapters, all permeated by his loving faith, but this is not the epilogue.

"It may seem like the final crisis, but his testimony and his example will go on and the book will continue through us who knew him, who loved him, and those who have a living faith and those who we pray will find a living faith through this tragedy.

He added: "People who believe in God never meet for the last time."


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15 Jan 03 | Politics
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