Tributes pour in after death of ‘100-year-old teenager’ Hayley
Mourners started to gather today at the funeral of a girl known as the "100-year-old teenager" who was afflicted with a rare premature ageing condition.
Hayley Okines, 17, died in her mother's arms on April 2 after a lifetime living with progeria, which causes those affected to age at eight times the usual rate.
The teenager's parents, Kerry and Mark, had been told she would only live to 13 but she defied those odds and underwent pioneering drug treatment in the US.
Today at All Saints Church in Sidley, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, scores of people started to turn out to remember a girl hailed by relatives as an inspiration.
The death of Hayley prompted a host of tributes, including from pop star Justin Bieber who tweeted to his 62 million Twitter followers: "RIP Hayley".
The Progeria Research Foundation (PRF) - which is striving to discover treatments and a cure for the condition - said the world had lost a "smart, beautiful and spirited English rose".
And on Facebook and Twitter, people touched by Hayley's story lined up to offer her family messages of support and to mourn the death of a "special little lady".
The PRF said there are around 125 children living in 43 countries with progeria, a genetic condition also known as Hutchinson-Gilford progeria. It said that children with progeria die at an average age of 14 of the same heart disease that affects millions of normally-ageing adults.
Hayley and her family had raised funds for her medical treatment and to raise public understanding of the condition.
The teenager published her autobiography aged 14 called Old Before My Time in which she revealed she had no fear of dying.
In it, she said: "My life with progeria is full of happiness and good memories. If I didn't have progeria I would not have done most of the cool things I have done or met most of the cool people I have met.
"Deep inside I am no different from anyone. We are all human."