Smiles, tears for Bradley and Ellen

There was laughter as well as tears at St Leonards School on Saturday as about 500 people attended the ''celebration of the lives of Bradley and Ellen Livingstone''.

The celebratory atmosphere was created at the request of the children's mother, Katharine Webb, who wanted the ceremony to focus on the happiness the children brought and the happy times they shared with all who knew them.

Bradley (9) and Ellen (6) were shot by their father, Edward Livingstone, as they slept at their nearby Kiwi St home on January 15.

As the sun shone warmly on the ceremony held overlooking Otago Harbour, there were many questions passing through the minds of those present.

Why? How could this happen in this quiet little corner of Dunedin?

In the end, all that could be done was rally together and support the children's mother, Katharine Webb.

And support her they did in large numbers. St Leonards School principal Jo Wilson reminded Ms Webb she would never be alone.

''The community has got your back,'' she said. Children attended the funeral wearing bright colours as a tribute to Ellen, who was known for her ''quite out there'' fashion sense.

Music was a major part of the service and included Bradley's favourite song, Rhinestone Cowboy by Glen Campbell, and a piece written especially for the funeral by one of his classmates.

Among the touching tributes was one from the children's mother, who described her son as ''a very get-up-and-go sort of boy''.

She said he was a dab hand in the kitchen, he was interested in how things worked, and once he put his mind to something, it was hard to stop him.

Ellen, on the other hand, was ''the complete opposite to Bradley'', she said.

She loved art, dancing, singing, was not shy of cameras, and she was something of a free spirit - especially when it came to dressing herself.

She had fantastic hair-dos and her favourite thing to wear was T-shirts layered one on top of the other, with the top T-shirt worn over her head like a bolero jacket.

Despite their differences, the two had a great bond, Ms Webb said.

''They played really well together, but they also knew how to wind each other up.

''My beautiful children, who were so caring. They were my life, and still are, and I will love them forever and ever and ever.''

Tears flowed in the congregation at her moving tribute.

However, overall, there was a great deal of laughter, particularly at some of the anecdotes from people who knew the family well.

One of Ellen's teachers recounted how she discovered Ellen and one of her friends after they had put make-up on their faces using a permanent marker pen.

''It took a lot of scrubbing to clean it off,'' she said.

-john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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