Page last updated at 14:38 GMT, Monday, 16 February 2009

Grief for 'model' crash family

Clockwise from top left: David and Michelle Statham; Jay; Reece holding Ellouise; Mason
The Stathams were described as a fantastic and hard working family

When David and Michelle Statham and their children moved from Birmingham to the north Wales coast they settled happily into their new home.

Mr Statham, 38, a chef, worked at a local pub in Llandudno, where he launched a poker league, and later took a job at a private boarding and day school.

Their eldest sons Reece, 13, and Jay, nine, were enthusiastic members of the local karate club, while their 33-year-old mother looked after a third boy, Mason, 20 months, and a longed-for daughter, Ellouise.

But only four years after creating their new life, the family was wiped out.

They were travelling home on a night in October 2008 on the M6 in Cheshire when a lorry ploughed into their car.

Portuguese lorry driver Paulo Jorge Nogueira da Silva was jailed for three years after a jury found him guilty at Chester Crown Court of causing their deaths by careless driving.

It has left its mark on the town
Judith Phillips, Llandudno reporter

They had been to Birmingham on a visit which saw David and Reece watch their beloved Aston Villa play in the Premiership, and because they wanted to show off 10-week-old Ellouise to their relatives.

The conviction at Chester Crown Court of da Silva, 46, from Murcia, Spain, may end the legal process, but it will not mean the Stathams are forgotten in the Conwy seaside town.

Neighbours of colleagues have spoken of the "six beautiful people" and the "model family" who had been killed in the crash.

Mayor Billy Evans said the time of the accident was "the worst two weeks" in the seaside town's history.

Reece (left) and Jay Statham
Reece [L] went to see Aston Villa with his father two days before the crash

"It was so sad, and everyone rallied round at the time," he said.

Since then Mr Evans has won the backing of his fellow town councillors to set up a peace garden as a memorial to the Statham children, and also to another child, Chloe Clark, 10, who died in a separate road crash in February last year.

He said the Stathams were fondly remembered by people in the town they adopted, after moving from Erdington in their native Birmingham in 2004.

"People are still talking about them," he said.

Judith Phillips, Llandudno reporter for the North Wales Weekly News, called the Stathams' deaths was one of the saddest stories she had worked on.

"I've worked on the Weekly News on and off for 48 years and this story does rank as one of the saddest, along with another one when six young people died when their speed boat sank in the 1990s," she said.

"It has left its mark on the town, definitely, as people were very saddened."

Ms Phillips said the court case had brought it to the fore again.

"The court case is a major topic of conversation in the town," she said.

The four coffins are taken from the church
The coffins were taken from the church for a private cremation

Although the family had lived in Llandudno for only four years, they were well known because they were active in the community.

"David had set up a poker league at a local pub, and worked there for a while before he went to St David's [College]," said Ms Phillips.

"His wife had converted to Catholicism and was a very active member of Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, where two of the children were altar boys.

"Last year was a particularly sad year for Llandudno," she added.

Community

The older boys attended local schools, and prayers were said for them at Blessed William Davies School, whose staff and pupils said they were "totally devastated and heartbroken".

Neighbours described them as "fantastic" and "a hard-working young family".

Shortly after their deaths, Mrs Statham's family said Michelle was a big hearted and wonderful mother who was always laughing, while her husband was a "a fantastic son-in-law".

St David's College bursar Judith Leslie said: "He made a huge impression because he was so amiable and cheerful."

Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral for the family on 4 November.

Mason Statham, aged 20 months
Mason, who was 20 months when he died, was the family's third son

The funeral was held at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Llandudno, where two of the children were altar boys and the family worshipped.

The four coffins were draped in the English and Welsh flags.

The two youngest children were lying in the same coffins as their parents to be cremated together.

Jay's coffin was painted like Doctor Who's Tardis while Reece's coffin was painted in the colours of Aston Villa.

Reece was an avid fan and the family had travelled to Birmingham for the weekend before the crash, partly so he and his father could go to see Villa's Premiership match against Portsmouth.

Prayers

Around 200 people packed inside the church for the service, conducted in both English and Welsh, while another 150 stood outside and listened to the service on a loudspeaker.

Leading the prayers, Sister Jennifer McGlade said Reece - Reecie Babes as he was known to his family - had a "celebrated appetite, not just for food but for rugby, the air cadets, karate and altar serving".

Sister Jennifer described Jay - Jay Bird - as quick-witted, articulate, talented and very amusing.

Carole Hagans and Angela Statham
The children's grandmothers at a news conference after the sentence - Carole Hagans and Angela Statham

"He brought joy to his family and friends. He was always singing about the stars in the sky. He was always happy and his smile said it all," she added.

Sister Jennifer said of Mason: "Masey Moo was only 20 months old but already showing signs of sporting talent.

"He could drop kick a football as soon as he could walk and used the television remote control as a cricket bat. At his tender age he has won the game and took the cup."

Of Ellouise, Sister Jennifer said: "Twinkle Toes, the baby of the family. The fourth of the four children Michelle and David always wanted."

Sister Jennifer said without Ellouise the family would not have been complete.

Relatives of the two families were in court for the trial and held a news conference after the verdicts.

Michelle's father Peter Hagans thanked emergency crews who attended the accident, the police and the people of Llandudno for their care and support.

He added: "The many tributes to Michelle, Dave and the children have made us realise just how much this tragedy has affected people from all over the country.

"We will miss our family every day but memories of them will be ours to treasure and hold close to our hearts."

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