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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Marathon death girl was running in memory of her brother: Charity donations rocket past £200,000 for Samaritans

-Claire Squires, from Leicestershire, was on the last mile of the 26.2mile course when she fell to the ground at Birdcage Walk near St James's Park
-She had raised more than £500 for charity by running the marathon - but this has increased to over £200,000 as news of her death spread
-Running in memory of her brother, who died of an overdose aged 25
-Shocked friends leave tribute messages online to 'brightest star in the sky'


When Claire Squires’s brother died of an overdose aged just 25, her mother and father suffered the heartache that every parent dreads.

Now they are struggling to come to terms with the tragedy of losing a second child after their youngest daughter collapsed and died while running the London Marathon for charity.

Last night, in an extraordinary tribute to Miss Squires, 30, donations for her chosen charity the Samaritans poured in at a rate of thousands of pounds an hour.

At the time of her death, her internet fundraising page at JustGiving.com had attracted £500 – but late last night, with 19,200 donors pledging money, the total had soared to £200,000, and continued to rise.

Friends believe her decision to raise money for the Samaritans – which offers support to people in distress – was partly inspired by the memory of her brother.

In 2001, Grant Squires was found dead after taking an overdose. He had ‘sunk into a depression’ after seeing his girlfriend killed in a horrific car crash that he survived.

Miss Squires fell to the ground in front of horrified spectators on Birdcage Walk within a mile of the marathon finish line on Sunday.

Paramedics tried to save the hairdresser’s life, but she died at the scene soon afterwards.

In a poignant photograph posted by a friend on Facebook on the day before the marathon, Miss Squires was pictured smiling and giving the thumbs up after choosing her running outfit.

A family friend said her parents Paul and Cilla, who have been married for 40 years, were struggling to come to terms with losing another of their five children.

They were too upset yesterday to comment at their home in North Kilworth, Leicestershire.

Tragic: Claire Squires, 30, collapsed and died while running the final stretch of yesterday's London Marathon

Home straight: Miss Squires collapsed at Birdcage Walk, near St James's Park, on the last mile of the course

The friend said: ‘To lose one child is just terrible, but to lose another – it’s a nightmare. They are a lovely family, and all the siblings were really close, so it was awful for them when Grant died. Now to lose Claire as well – it is just awful.

‘One minute I was watching the marathon on the television trying to spot her, and then I got a call saying she had died.’

Miss Squires’s boyfriend Simon Van Herrewege, 31, with whom she lived in Market Harborough, near Leicester, also declined to comment. The family friend, who asked not to be named, said: ‘Claire was so beautiful and such a nice girl. She was fit and had been training for the marathon.

‘She’s climbed Mount Kilimanjaro too – it just shows these things can happen to anyone.

‘I just hope out of all of this tragedy her mother will find strength and see how much support she has from everyone.’

Tests to establish why Miss Squires collapsed are expected to take place in the coming days.

Last night Catherine Johnstone of the Samaritans, for which Mrs Squires had done voluntary work, said the charity would dedicate a fund to her daughter’s memory.

‘We desperately wish that it was not under these circumstances, but we have been overwhelmed by the response,’ she added.

Friends paying tribute to Miss Squires – who leaves three sisters, Maxine, 38, Nicola, 32, and Penelope, 28 – said she was ‘wonderfully vibrant’. One, Nicola Short, said she ‘brought laughter and love to everyone’s life’.

Miss Short added: ‘She will be sorely missed by all and our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.’

Committed fundraiser: Miss Squires (centre), pictured with Nikki Wells (left) and Penny Squires (right) takes part in a charity car wash

Generous: Miss Squires had previously climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise money for the RAF

Tributes: Stunned friends of Miss Squires today left messages on websites including her JustGiving.com charity fundraising page (pictured)

Rebecca Herity wrote: 'Such an amazing girl! Miss you so much already! Beautiful angel xxx", while Jo Lovell also wrote: 'Amazing lady! xxx'.

Claire Collins-Green said: 'You are the brightest star in the sky. Love surrounds you.'

Lily Jones added: 'Thinking of you Claire, Rest In Peace.'

A fellow runner donated £20 and wrote: 'So sorry to hear the news. Rest easy - an angel for those who run the course in future years.'

Another donated £50 and said: 'So tragic. Claire was an inspiration to everyone. Our thoughts are with your family and friends.'

Friends also took to Twitter to pay tribute to Miss Squires.

Daisy Milburn wrote: 'R.I.P Claire Squires deeply saddening news & you'll be hugely missed', and Callie Wright wrote: 'RIP Claire Squires - lived life to the full. Only lady I know to take hair straightners up a mountain!'

Miss Squires, a hairdresser from North Kilworth in Leicestershire, had raised more than £500 for the Samaritans by running the marathon. Her death is the tenth since the sporting event began in 1981

Another friend wrote on Facebook: 'Can’t believe it. This cant be true. She was so healthy.'

Miss Squires died with the finishing line only one bend away.

Birdcage Walk borders St James's Park and is the last road that runners have to travel before reaching Buckingham Palace where they turn onto The Mall on which the finish line is located.

Competitors do not reach Birdcage Walk until after completing 25miles of the marathon.

Miss Squires raised £1,886 for the Children’s Society by completing the 2010 London Marathon, and last year raised £1,430 for the RAF Association by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Miss Squires was only 20 when her brother Grant died.

• The home and email addresses of all 38,000 London Marathon runners, including dozens of celebrities, were unintentionally published by the organisers on their website.
They apologised for the lapse and said it had been resolved.
The Information Commissioner’s Office will investigate



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