AS the cortege carrying tragic PC David Rathband’s body arrived at the grounds of Stafford Crematorium, a lone piper took his place at the front of the procession to lead the solemn party of mourners to the chapel.
The police officer, shot and blinded by fugitive Raoul Moat, was coming to be laid to rest in his hometown, just yards from the school he had attended as a child and the Staffordshire Police headquarters where his twin brother Darren had begun his career.
It was a poignant moment and one which was not lost on more than 200 people who were waiting, with heads bowed, to pay their respects to the fallen officer at Tixall Road - where he was to be buried in the family plot alongside his niece Naomi, who died in 2003.
However, as the funeral party slowed on the approach to the chapel the silence was shattered as the strains of Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life began to filter through the loudspeakers, raising a few heads and then drawing smiles and laughter from those assembled.
Humanist celebrant Carly Fee later told the congregation that Mr Rathband’s family were “unanimous” that his funeral should be a celebration of his life and the song was chosen because “it encapsu- PC laid to rest lates David’s own optimistic outlook and irrepressible humour”.
Family, friends and members of The Royal British Legion carried the coffin from the hearse - in which his police call sign, Tango 190, was written out in orange flowers. A cap and a boxing glove was placed on top of the casket.
Opening the service, Ms Fee described PC Rathband to the congregation as “David the Brave” and “David the Hero”. A poem dedicated his memory, along with a song by friend Julian Reece was followed by a contribution by Paul Johnson, who said he hoped lessons had been learned from PC Rathband’s death and that his “best friend did not die in vain”.
Pc Rathband, 44, who was shot by gunman Raoul Moat in 2010, hanged himself at his home in Blyth, Northumberland, on February 29.
He had battled to rebuild his life after being blinded by Moat and became a national figure after setting up the Blue Lamp Foundation, which helps 999 personnel injured in the line of duty.
In a moving eulogy, during which he had to pause to compose himself, brother Darren said: “I have always known that David was struggling to cope with his blindness, that he was left with on that horrible day, the fourth of July. How ironic American Independence Day was the day he lost his independence and I lost some of me.” He added: “I have waited for him to ask me for help but I guess his strength of character and the pedestal of big brother didn’t allow him to ask me for mine.
“I just hope the memory of my brother is not tarnished by others who feel the need to set the record straight.
“Because the record is simply this, PC Rathband succumbed to his injuries and the struggle with life, having been shot by a coward who will remain forgotten.” Recalling the last time he saw his brother alive, when he visited his home in Australia, he said his brother had found the flight difficult.
“It broke my heart seeing him arrive in Adelaide,” he said.
“He was a shattered man, he looked so tired and frail, and the scars were so clearly visible.
“This was my brother’s new life, and it wasn’t first class. David often said, ‘I wish somebody would turn the lights on’.” The funeral service was followed by a private family burial.