Liverpool pays a colourful tribute to 'loving Anthony'

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The Independent Online

In accordance with family wishes, many of the mourners who packed the pews of Liverpool Cathedral wore football tops and brightly coloured basketball shirts to commemorate the 18-year-old who was bludgeoned to death with an axe in Huyton, Merseyside, last month.

Beneath leaden skies and torrential rain, more than 3,000 guests turned the funeral into a "joyful thanksgiving" for the talented athlete's life.

His mother, Gee, wore an Arsenal shirt, because her son had been a life-long "Gunners" fan, while other members of the congregation sported Liverpool, Everton, Manchester United, England and Brazil colours as they remembered a "popular and loving boy who took less confident youngsters under his wing".

"Anthony talked to me when no one else would," said his primary school friend William Eborall, who told mourners how Anthony had befriended him despite his status as the school "geek".

"I always felt honoured that he chose me as a friend because Anthony was popular with everyone. Nobody had a bad word to say for him yet he chose to be friends with me - the geek of the year.

"He was such a caring, sensitive person. I wish there were a few more Anthonys in the world."

As the Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Rev James Jones, led the hour-long funeral service, which was also broadcast on a big screen in Liverpool city centre, Anthony's extended family and friends sat in the first 14 rows of the cathedral united in both grief and pride.

They listened as Pastor Hughes Redhead, Anthony's godfather, paid tribute to the family and in particular his parents, Steve and Gee, and his four sisters and one brother.

"The family was confident, enterprising and generous," he said, adding that the family had moved to Huyton from Liverpool's troubled Toxteth area, in search of a better life.

"They were brave and refused to be enslaved by the city's past relationship with black people. Resisting the pressure to stay in what was considered to be their area, they left Toxteth and moved to Huyton."

It was the same spirit which Anthony, a Christian, had shown in his desire to be a lawyer and help others.

Pastor Diana Stacey, minister of the Walker family's church, said: "Anthony didn't mind being different, in fact he enjoyed it.

"He had a depth of character that could stand out in a crowd, and his integrity showed that."

One of the songs played was the teenager's favourite, "Love Shine a Light" by Katrina and the Waves, which was sung as pictures of Anthony were shown on a big screen inside the cathedral.

At the end of the service his oak coffin was carried out to the hymn, "When the Saints Go Marching In", and taken away for a private burial.

Among the mourners were members of the Manchester-based Mothers Against Violence and Carisma groups, which have campaigned against gun and gang violence.

"Through our presence at the funeral, we wanted to support both the family and friends of Anthony as well as the community workers and the agencies who have a role in bringing the perpetrators of this senseless crime to justice," said Claire Barlow, of Carisma.

Paul Taylor, 20, and Michael Barton, 17, both of Huyton, are in custody awaiting trial charged with Anthony's murder. They are also accused of grievous bodily harm.

An eighth person arrested in connection with the attack was released on police bail on Wednesday.