A village church was packed for the funeral this afternoon of a popular former school worker found dead at home last month.

Family, friends and colleagues of Sarah O’Neill filled St James’ Church, in Cross Roads, for the service.

Moving tributes from her sister and daughter sparked a spontaneous standing ovation from the congregation.

“She always had a smile on her face and had a fantastic sense of humour,” said sister Laura.

“She would never hurt anyone.

“Her proudest moment was when her girl Kirsty was born and she held her in her arms. She loved our Kirsty beyond measure.”

Tribute was also paid to Mrs O’Neill’s work at Holy Family Catholic School in Keighley, where she was an access officer.

Her duties included working with children suffering from autism, pupils recovering from accidents and also youngsters with dyspraxia, a condition that impairs physical co-ordination.

“She would do anything to ensure her students were safe and happy and she made learning fun,” said Laura.

School staff were among those present to say a final farewell to Mrs O’Neill, 42, whose body was found at her Hebden Road, Haworth, home on December 14.

Six heart-shaped balloons were attached to the wicker coffin, which was carried into church to the strains of Coldplay’s The Scientist.

The Rev Peter Wilson – who led the service, accompanied by Father Michael Walsh – said: “This has left a gaping hole in the lives of so many people, but particularly her close family and friends.”

Mrs O’Neill’s daughter, Kirsty, said she “couldn’t find words” to describe the special relationship she had with her mother.

The service also included a moving solo performance of “Angel” sung by Kay Langford, hymns “He’s got the whole world in his Hands” and “I watch the Sunrise”, and songs by Celine Dion and Phil Collins.

Afterwards a private cremation was held.