It was feared no one would turn up at the funeral of an unidentified woman who was found on a beach.
But more than 100 mourners attended Hailsham Cemetery today (September 25) to say a final goodbye to a woman they did not know.
More than a year after she was found at a cove near Birling Gap, the woman remains unidentified.
The sun shone down as in almost silence the procession followed the coffin across the cemetery grounds to her final resting place.
The ceremony was marked with moving words by civil celebrant Martin Ellis, and Sarah Taylor, who had set up a Facebook group inviting people to come to commemorate the mysterious woman’s life.
The crowd heard a reading of the poem Gone from my Sight by Rev. Luther F. Beecher and people were invited to sing along to Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen.
Organiser Christina Martin said, “I am so pleased, I was expecting about 20 people and we’ve had several times that.
“Everyone was really respectful, really nice, and came in the proper spirit.
“It was sunny, the flowers were beautiful. The fact that people wanted to do their own readings was lovely.
“I feel like some people were here for personal reasons. Her legacy is maybe a friendship or two here today, it’s going to create connections.”
Asked whether she thinks the woman will ever be identified, she said, “The police have done all they can. Unless someone can really identify that necklace I am not sure.”
Speaking afterwards, Sarah Taylor said to the Herald, “I thought, you can’t allow somebody to pass with nobody there. It can’t be put into words.
“There was something in me that said this could have been me. This could have been anybody.
“Life is about love and caring and if more people could just stop and say ‘are you okay?’ or even smile at someone – that can make the difference.”
And civil celebrant Martin Ellis said, “I have done quite a few funerals but normally you have a name or place to start from. They have some history, some back story.
“She had none of that. I had to think of the compassion we all feel. This had a unique effect on people in my experiences.
“All these people have come because it’s meant something to them, just to show human compassion.”
Funeral flowers were donated by Interflora, Petalon, Waitrose, and Great British Florist, and a free grave marker provided by Treasured Memories. A more permanent stone has been offered for free by JF Stoneworks.
Around 15 messages were left with flowers at her grave. One read, “From the man who found you on the beach. May you rest in peace. Peter Tooth.”
The woman’s body was recovered by Coastguard and Lifeboat teams after being seen at the shore near the fourth Seven Sister on July 4, 2017.
No family has come forward to identify her.
According to police, she is believed to have been aged between 25-55 years-old, and been of medium build, and white European ethnicity.
She had no visible tattoos and had been wearing red nail varnish on her toes.
If you think you know who she is, contact the Missing Persons Bureau at missingperson.police.uk
Photos by Eddie Mitchell and Dan Jessup.