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Large turnout for funeral of murdered student

Students brought roses to the funeral service of Manuela R. who was murdered in Galway 11 days ago

(Keystone)

Irish officials joined hundreds of mourners on the outskirts of Bern on Friday at the funeral of the Swiss teenager who was murdered in Ireland last week.

Just hours before the ceremony a man was charged with murdering 17-year-old Manuela R. in Galway city in western Ireland. The local man was remanded in custody until his next court appearance.

At least 500 people, including many young friends and relatives, attended the ceremony at the church in Wohlen, Bern, near Manuela's home.

A packed church listened to friends' speeches about the popular young girl, who was an apprentice business student at canton Fribourg's probation service and a keen dancer.

"The many people present are here to share their powerlessness and sadness," said parish leader Barbara Kückelmann during the two-hour ceremony which ended with a balloon release.

"Everyone is horrified and basically gathered here to protest against this crime," she told swissinfo.

"All of Ireland mourns with the family of the victim," said James Sharkey, the Irish ambassador to Switzerland, adding that he hoped the family would find some consolation in the large turnout.

"We have come here to express the sadness of the people of Galway," added the city's mayor, Tom Costello, who headed an eight-person delegation from Galway. The group included city manager Joe McGrath, investigating police officers and representatives of three of the city's language schools.

Christian Müller, Wohlen's mayor, told swissinfo that "Ireland was in no way responsible for the tragedy", and praised the Irish authorities for their support.

Widespread coverage

Since her death in Ireland 11 days ago, Manuela's image has appeared daily in news coverage in Switzerland and Ireland.

The Swiss media – and not just the traditional tabloid newspapers - have given lengthy coverage to the tragedy and the life of the murdered teenager.

The Irish media have also given huge prominence to the story, reflecting widespread astonishment and disbelief that a young visitor to the country could meet such a violent death.

"Manuela's murder deeply shocked everyone in Ireland, not alone Galway. I have asked Ambassador Sharkey to express on behalf of the government and indeed the people of Ireland our deep revulsion at this terrible deed," Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern told the Irish Times newspaper.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Manuela R. (17) from Bern travelled to Ireland to begin a two-week language course on October 6 with a group of 42 fellow students from a commercial college in Fribourg.

Two days later she went missing on her way to meet friends in the city centre. Her body was found on the morning of Tuesday October 9 on waste ground near where she was staying. She had been strangled.

A 27-year-old Galway man has been charged with the murder of Manuela R. in the city.

The girl's ashes will be buried later by close family members.

According to the Irish tourist board, Failte Ireland, more than 95,000 students visited the country in 2006 to attend English-language courses.

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