It was a touching gesture on what should have been a day of celebration for Blake Barrass and his younger brother Tristan, 13, who both died following an incident at Gregg House Road on Friday, May 24.
Scores of well-wishers, including families who knew the boys and other members of the community shaken by the tragedy, poured into St James’ and St Christopher’s Church this afternoon to pay their last respects.
Many told how popular the brothers had been, with one woman describing them as the ‘kindest boys you would ever meet’.
Some of the children arrived clutching balloons bearing the message: “To Blake and Tristan – look after each other boys. Happy Birthday’.
As they left the church, having lit candles for the youngsters, they held back the tears as they counted down from 15 before releasing the balloons in unison.
Inside the church, mourners left flowers and cards with moving messages for the boys.
One read: “Today you should have been celebrating your 15th birthday with us. Instead you’re up in heaven watching down on us.
“Blake, you are like a son to me. You always have been and always will be. We celebrated every birthday together over the last 10 years and I will continue to do so in your memory.”
Another said: “I can’t believe you’re gone but on your 15th birthday we will celebrate your life and remember the good times. We all miss you and love you. Rest in Peace.”
A third read, heartwrenchingly: “Brothers to the end of this life. Things don’t always go to plan.”
Kelly Gill attended the vigil with her daughter Kasey, 15, who was in the same year at school as Blake and knew him well.
Kasey said: “Blake was funny and he liked to play football every morning. We all miss him so much.”
Kelly, 41, who also has a son, added: “I think the community needs to stick together in tragic circumstances like these. Even though a week’s passed, everyone’s still in shock.
“Blake and Tristan should be enjoying the holidays and celebrating Blake’s birthday. It’s horrible what’s happened.”
She also told how the boys’ school is planning to unveil a memorial bench for them next week.
Dawn Johnson, who was there with her three children, said: “They were lovely characters and they’re really missed by children at the school. It’s hit everyboy really hard.
“Coming here to light candles for them is about remembering the boys and helping my children come to terms with what’s happened.”
Samantha Keates, who was there with her daughter Macy, seven, said: “They were lovely boys. The kindest boys you would ever meet.”
Rachel Beer told how she often saw the boys walking to school, with Tristan in particular hard to miss as each week he would be sporting different coloured hair.
“Tristan always looked like such a happy little lad. He was always laughing with his mates, and we know he did a lot of charity work,” said the 38-year-old mum of two, who has raised more than £300 for the boys’ family through a raffle.
Reverend David Dean-Revill, who organised the vigil, said: “Today, many people in Shiregreen have mourned and shown their love, care and respect for the very sad loss of two very young lives.
“We will continue to pray for the family and all those affected by this tragic event.”
In the hall next door, mourners were invited to express their grief by adding their handprints to a ‘prayer heart’, alongside moving messages including ‘love you always – you are like a son to me’, and 'look after each other boys’ and ‘fly high beautiful boys’.
Charlotte Codina, leader of the missional community which runs a children’s club and messy play sessions at the hall, organised that and other crafting activities to help children come to terms with their grief.
She told how many members of the youth group were ‘deeply affected’ by the tragedy, and although she hadn't known Blake and Tristan personally she had heard from others how popular they were.
“They were real jokers, I’m told, but very friendly boys who were very well-liked and really helpful,” she said.
“They and the surviving children have been very much in our hearts and prayers.”
Four younger children, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were found injured in the same house as Blake and Tristan but have since been released from hospital.
The boys’ mother Sarah Barrass, 34, of Gregg House Road, Shiregreen, last week appeared in court accused of murdering Blake and Tristan, plus three counts of attempted murder relating to two other children.
Brandon Machin, 37, of no fixed address, is also charged with two counts of murder.
They have both been remanded into custody ahead of a provisional trial date of November 12.