Grieving artist Alison Lapper led mourners at the funeral for her 19-year-old son Parys today as his coffin was carried in a Volkswagen camper van accompanied by motorcyclists.
The artist is known for becoming one of the most famous pregnant women in Britain when she was immortalised by artist Marc Quinn in a sculpture given pride of place on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.
But she was left devastated after her teenage son, Parys, was found dead. Today, she asked for as many noisy motorbikes as possible to escort Parys on his final journey to Worthing Crematorium in Findon, West Sussex.
Alison Lapper watches ahead of the funeral for her son Parys, 19, at Worthing Cemetery today with her fiancé, Si Clift
Miss Lapper watches as her son’s coffin is carried in a Volkswagen camper van accompanied by motorcyclists
Miss Lapper she was left devastated after her teenage son, Parys, was found dead. She fought to bring him up on her own
Miss Lapper asked for as many noisy motorbikes as possible to escort Parys on his final journey to Worthing Crematorium
Miss Lapper – who was seven months pregnant with Parys when she was sculpted in marble by Quinn for his work, entitled Alison Lapper Pregnant – attended the funeral this afternoon with her fiancé, Si Clift.
Mr Clift said: ‘Ali has expressed a dear wish that she would absolutely love to see as many noisy motorbikes as possible to escort Parys on his final journey from her home to celebrate his life (he would have loved this too).’
The sculpture, which was in Trafalgar Square for two years until 2007, was hailed as the most powerful work by a British artist in the last 20 years. A large replica featured in the London 2012 Paralympics opening ceremony.
Miss Lapper, 54, has never named Parys’s father, who left her before his birth. She fought to bring him up on her own as she had been abandoned by her parents and became institutionalised.
Miss Lapper’s fiance Si Clift confirmed that her son Parys (pictured), who was only 19 years old, died suddenly a week ago
Lapper continued to battle to keep her son Parys at her Sussex home throughout his teenage years despite her disability
The funeral for Miss Lapper’s son was centered around a colourful Volkswagen camper van accompanied by motorcyclists
Despite Alison’s physical struggles, she became a student member of the Mouth and Foot Painters Association
She continued to battle to keep him at her Sussex home throughout his teenage years despite her disability. She was born with shortened legs and no arms.
Miss Lapper was seven months pregnant with Parys when she was sculpted in marble by Marc Quinn for his famous work
‘When I saw him, I just cried and cried,’ she said movingly after his birth at 35 weeks in 2000.
‘The emotions I felt were indescribable. I had never imagined I was going to be a mother; never thought it could be possible.
‘But when they placed him on my shoulder and I gave him a little kiss on his head and said ‘hello’, I was overwhelmed.’
Parys’s life was watched by millions of BBC viewers as he featured in the acclaimed documentary series, Child of Our Time, presented by Professor Robert Winston.
The idea was to chart the lives of 25 youngsters until they reached their 20th birthdays. Parys is the only one of the 25 to have died before reaching that milestone.
Despite Alison’s physical struggles, she became a student member of the Mouth and Foot Painters Association at the age of 16 and went on to achieve a first class honours degree in fine art at the University of Brighton.
Miss Lapper requested as many noisy motorbikes as possible to escort Parys on his final journey to Worthing Crematorium
Miss Lapper achieved a first class honours degree in fine art at the University of Brighton despite her physical struggles
Miss Lapper learned to change her son’s nappy with her feet, and even managed to lift him with her teeth
Miss Lapper posed for Marc Quinn in 2000, and his marble sculpture was on display in Trafalgar Square from 2005 to 2007
In 2003 she was awarded an MBE for services to art and in 2005 she published her fascinating autobiography, My Life in My Hands.
In an emotional speech in 2014 when she was awarded an honorary doctorate at Brighton University, Alison described Parys as ‘my greatest piece of art work and creation’.
Mr Clift described Parys as ‘a mischievous, generous, kind, loving, frustrating, cheeky, forgiving, beautiful boy’. His future stepfather added: ‘He was his own man. He was a good son.’
On Tuesday evening, Miss Lapper held an ‘open house’ for Parys’s friends ‘to come and decorate, paint, stick messages or just sign your name on his empty coffin, it’s just a blue box’.