THE death of teenager Jayden Parkinson just days before Christmas shocked the community.
But on Saturday, friends, family and the people of Didcot were united in their grief as they celebrated the 17-year-old’s life.
Friends and family packed the town’s All Saints Church for a thanksgiving service.
And more than 100 white balloons were released in memory of Jayden at the church where her body was found buried last month.
Jayden’s mother Samantha Shrewsbury and sister Sharday George were among those who spoke at the service on Saturday afternoon.
About 200 people attended and heard tributes and songs from Jayden’s former classmates at Didcot Girls’ School.
All saints vicar The Rev Karen Beck said: “It was very emotional but it went really well. So many people contributed to it and it was a good service to remember her by.
“There are still a lot of raw emotions around but it was a real affirmation of her and people were celebrating her life.”
The vicar said Jayden’s mother had thanked the congregation, police and community for their support.
The Bishop of Dorchester the Rt Rev Colin Fletcher, who spoke at the service, said yesterday: “It was very painful but it was lovely having her family there and so many people. Clearly it is something that has drawn Didcot together.
“One of the things I said in my sermon was she was clearly a person who knew about laughter and fun.”
The family asked for donations to go towards setting up a charity in Jayden’s name to help teenage victims of domestic abuse. A book of condolences was also opened.
After the service, Didcot Girls’ School headteacher Rachael Warwick said: “Although this was a very sad and difficult occasion for everyone involved, particularly Jayden's family and close friends, the service enabled the community to come together to grieve for Jayden and to celebrate her life.”
The 17-year-old was found buried in a grave at the Lydalls Road church two weeks later after going missing. Her funeral is expected to take place in Kent once her body is released by police.
Ben Blakeley, 22, of Christchurch Road, Reading, has been charged with Jayden’s murder and perverting the course of justice.
A 17-year-old Didcot youth, who cannot be named, has also been charged with perverting the course of justice.