Keane Wallis-Bennett funeral: hundreds mourn pupil

HUNDREDS of colourfully dressed young mourners have paid their final respects to a friend and classmate killed when a school wall collapsed on her.

Young mourners dressed in pink follow Keane Wallis-Bennett's coffin. Picture: Neil Hanna
Young mourners dressed in pink follow Keane Wallis-Bennett's coffin. Picture: Neil Hanna

Keane Wallis-Bennett, 12, died on 1 April when a free-standing modesty wall fell on her at Liberton High in Edinburgh as she changed for PE.

More than 400 people attended a funeral service at the capital’s Mortonhall crematorium today.

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There was not enough space inside the crematorium’s main chapel for those wishing to pay their respects in death.

Those unable to find a place in the chapel listened to the service through loudspeakers outside, during which Reverend Cameron MacKenzie spoke of a 12-year-old who loved being with her friends and family and had thrown herself into all aspects of her school life, even writing to the city council to demand better resources for her and her classmates.

Keane’s coffin was brought to the crematorium by a white horse-drawn carriage, her family walking slowly behind.

Like those who had replaced black with brighter colours, the two white horses wore pink feathers in their manes.

They were followed by hundreds of the schoolgirl’s friends, some of them in tears, and some wearing specially made pink sweatshirts with the message RIP Keane.

Two of Keane’s friends performed a version of The Proclaimers’ Sunshine on Leith before Rev Mackenzie began his eulogy.

He said: “Keane, if you pardon the pun, was keen. So very keen; electrically keen about life. She joined in everything at school and outside of school. She was on the pupil council. She was in the gardening club, the rugby team. She was cheerleading. She learned the violin. She was in the playground squad. She loved her basketball. She got her brown belt, green tab at karate. She went pony riding to the Braids - the big horses didn’t faze her at all.”

Rev MacKenzie said that as Keane progressed from Craigour Park Primary to Liberton High, her tastes matured.

“By this time her pursuits involved lots of lip gloss, false nails and big bags from Primark, and I do mean big bags from Primark, full of dresses and tops and all the other things that girls need,” he said. “Everywhere Keane went she left a trail of glitter, and nails and other shiny things.”

No one from Keane’s family spoke to the media today. In a statement released earlier this month, her parents, David Bennett and Abbie Wallis, paid tribute to their daughter, who they described as a “princess who dreamed of being prime minister”.

During the service, Rev MacKenzie said Keane had once written to Edinburgh City Council, asking for “better resources” for her school.

“This tells me that Keane was smart and compassionate, wanting the best for her friends and fellow students,” he said. “Keane was ready for the challenges that high school would bring and she was revelling in her new-found and expansive opportunities to learn and grown as a human being.

“I will not comment on the events of that Tuesday (1 April), except to draw you back for a moment to the story of the young women in (the Book of) Judges. There was a story of another innocent girl. A young woman was given just a short period of time to come to terms with the fact she would not marry, that she would not have children, that she would not find a husband to love.

“Like that young woman, named only as Jephthah’s daughter, Keane will not know any of the life events that her friends will know, and that is a tragedy.

“The one thing I do not want us to do today is lose sight of just how sad that is and how heartbreaking it is. We will never, ever forget this time in our lives. We will always remember Keane. I would ask you to never forget Keane or her family.”

Rev MacKenzie said Keane’s family had taken strength from the “vast amount of love” they had received from well-wishers, including her favourite pop group One Direction, who sent flowers to the ceremony.

“Sadness must be gone through,” he said. “There’s no avoiding the sadness, but sadness can’t be allowed to be Keane’s legacy. Live lives, the kind of lives that will honour Keane’s memory and make this world a better place. The way Keane wanted to make it a better place. Raise your sights in honour of Keane.”

The order of service handed to mourners included a number of tributes from young friends, including one from her brother, Ryan.

“To my beautiful super sister,” it read. “I would do anything to spend one more day with you. I love you so much and a part of me is missing.”

Edinburgh City Council has confirmed Liberton High will re-open on Tuesday after structural checks were completed.

The police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are continuing to carry out their investigations.