Tears for tragic sisters

One of two teenage sisters whose memorial service was held at a Lowestoft church had been due to be baptised there the day before. Claire and Jenny Stoddart, 18 and 15, were both killed in an horrific crash on the A12.

One of two teenage sisters whose memorial service was held at a Lowestoft church had been due to be baptised there the day before.

Claire and Jenny Stoddart, 18 and 15, were both killed in a horrific crash on the A12 near Blythburgh on July 1, which also claimed the lives of two other people.

They had been travelling home from a pop concert in Ipswich, organised to celebrate the end of their exams.

On Sunday, friends and family had planned to attend Lowestoft Community Church for Jenny's baptism.

Instead yesterday the church was holding a thanksgiving memorial service for both sisters.

More than 500 people, including friends, family and teachers filled the seats, lined the aisles, and poured into the courtyard to pay their respects. A video link was set up in the hall neighbouring the church.

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But although they had been brought together by tragedy, and united in their grief, they chose to remember with songs, laughter, and pictures of two sisters who “shone like stars”.

At the service, Jenny's best friend Amy Willis, who had been due to be baptised with Jenny, spoke emotionally of the day they had planned.

She said: “Yesterday me and Jen were supposed to be getting baptised together. She was so excited about it in the weeks before the accident, talking and planning what we were going to wear.

“She was my best mate, the person I could tell everything, and I trusted her wholeheartedly.”

The last diary entries of both girls were published in an order of service, Jenny's revealing her enthusiasm about the baptism, and poignantly ending with how excited she was about going to the concert.

“Red Hot Chili Peppers 2morrow. Can't wait. Yay!! xbyex.”

Friends of both girls paid tribute to not only Claire and Jenny, but the whole Stoddart family for welcoming them in.

But even in the moments of greatest sadness, as they were choking back tears and fighting for composure, they retained their humour. One friend Chris Clarke, laughed as he struggled to speak.

“I look like such a woos,” he said. “If they were looking at me from up there they would be having such a laugh at me.”

Another friend recalled family holidays with the Stoddarts telling how the girl's father Phil had once taken them to a nudist beach.

Mr Stoddart spoke about his faith in Christianity and took time to thank all the people who had stood by the family over the past two weeks. He said: “I must say a very big thank you on behalf of myself, Heather, Amy and Tom, we have been overwhelmed with the support.

“Thank you for showing concern for us.”

But even on such a sad occasion, he was still able to laugh and joke with Claire and Jenny's friends, adding: “I didn't knowingly lead the kids to a nudist beach - just for the record.”

Paying tribute, community pastor Rob Clarke, who led the service, said: “There was such life in those girls, such ordinary teenage girls but with a profound faith. Many people were touched by them while they were alive, and many more have been touched through their deaths.”

Police are still appealing for witnesses to the crash which also claimed the lives of 18-year-old Carla Took from Lowestoft, and 40-year-old Simon Bonner from Yoxford.

Anyone with information should call Halesworth Roads Policing on 01473 613500.

A memorial service for Carla Took will be held at St Michael's Church, Oulton Broad at 1.30pm on Thurday.