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Mother and son who died in car fire are remembered in moving memorial service
12:50pm Monday 16th December 2013 in News
AFRICAN music filled a church as the Zimbabwean community remembered a mother and son killed in a tragic car fire.
More than 200 people packed into St Mary’s Church, Prittlewell, on Saturday(DEC14) for the memorial service of Cathy Mhlaba and her 16-year-old son Beki Ali, of Shoebury, who died in a car fire in Thorpe Bay.
Beki’s older brother Genesis and his aunts and uncles bravely fought back tears to pay tribute to the pair, who were killed on Tuesday, December 3.
Genesis said: “I’m extremely proud of my mother. She was the most powerful woman, regardless of the situation.
“She carried our family and she sacrificed a lot.”
Felix Ali, Cathy’s brother-in-law, said: “Beki didn’t have a bone in his body of hate of malice to anyone. He was very loving and I dare anyone here to find anyone happier.
“I’m going to miss Beki and I’m going to miss Cathy.
“If there is a heaven and Beki isn’t there I will want to know why.”
As mourners took their places in front of a black and white portrait of the mother and son, surrounded by flowers, members of Beki’s father’s family began spontaneous call-and-response singing in an African language, accompanied by maracas, from their aisle.
The singing spread throughout the congregation, softly at first, then louder. More and more relatives and friends filtered in, as if in response to the calls.
Beki, who attended St Nicholas Special School, Southend, had a learning difficulty that left him with the mental age of a child.
His brother spoke of Beki’s love for music and his ambition to be a DJ.
Genesis said: “Beki had an infectious smile. He might not have been the best at articulating it, but you could feel the love.
“He wanted to be a DJ. He had an ear for music, my brother.
“He was stuck in an era of music from my uncle’s age.”
The large family drew support from the huge turnout as police are treating the deaths as murder-suicide.
Whenever the speakers broke down, the congregation would begin singing the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul”.
Cathy’s older brother, Dean, said: “I’d like to thank each and every one of you for your support and strength that you have given to the family.
“We really appreciate it.
“Considering what happened, we are grateful and thankful.”
Assistant coroner for Essex, Eleanor McGann, said the pair died of burning and inhalation through combustion at the opening of an inquest onto their deaths last week.
The inquest was adjourned until May.
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