Dead boys' mother dies in childbirth

THE MOTHER of two young boys killed in a caravan fire a year ago next month has died in childbirth.Bernie Smith has been buried alongside her two children, Rodney, 11, and three-year-old Ben, at the Holy Trinity Church in Long Melford.

THE MOTHER of two young boys killed in a caravan fire a year ago next month has died in childbirth.

Bernie Smith has been buried alongside her two children, Rodney, 11, and three-year-old Ben, at the Holy Trinity Church in Long Melford.

In tragic scenes that mirrored the funeral of the two brothers, several hundred mourners, followed by around 40 caravans, took part in a procession through the picturesque Suffolk village, before paying their final respects to Mrs Smith during a moving service led by the Rector Ian Friars.

Rodney and Ben died after the caravan they were in, at the West Meadows travellers' site in Bury Road, Ipswich, became engulfed in flames in April last year. Their nine-year-old brother managed to escape the caravan before the fire took hold.

Kit Sampson, former traveller liaison officer for the East Anglian Health Authority, said Mrs Smith's death was a “great tragedy”.

“The family will have a lot of support because people in gypsy communities really rally round each other at times like this, and Mrs Smith would have gone to heaven surrounded by love,” she said.

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“There would have most likely been a wake held on the evening before the funeral, when people would have visited her body in a caravan to take gifts and pay their respects. Afterwards, the women would have gone into their trailers and the men would have lit a fire and stood around it, singing and humming.”

During the funeral, mourners laid poignant floral tributes to Mrs Smith, and her unborn child, Jack.

“The flowers say so much, especially to people who might not be able to read or write,” said Ms Sampson.

“Unfortunately the maternal death rate amongst gypsy women and babies is far higher than in other branches of society because they find it difficult to get antenatal care.”

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