THE heartbroken family of a Wigan naval officer shot dead on a nuclear submarine fought back tears as they bid a final farewell at his funeral yesterday.
Hundreds of mourners gathered at Sacred Heart RC Church, in Springfield, for the full military funeral of Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux, 36, who was killed when a firearm was discharged on board his vessel HMS Astute while it was docked in Southampton.
A coffin draped in a union flag, and topped with a naval cap and single red rose was carried into church by six colleagues from HMS Astute.
Mr Molyneux’s wife Gillian was accompanied into church by sons Jamie, 13, and 12-year-old Arron, dressed in military uniform, six-year-old daughter Bethany and youngest son Charlie, three, who wore a Wigan Warriors kit.
Royal Navy sailors in uniform, including many colleagues of Mr Molyneux, lined the streets outside as the funeral cortege arrived for the midday service.
Father Andrew Jolly and Royal Navy Chaplain Andrew McFadden conducted the service, which was followed by a private burial.
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy, Mayor of Wigan Coun Michael Winstanley and youngsters from Shevington Sharks under 12s, the team coached by Mr Molyneux, were among the congregation.
The service, which was broadcast to mourners outside the church, included the hymns Here I Am, Lord, Be Still and Colours of the Day, which Ian sang as an 11-year-old boy on Songs of Praise.
Phil Buckley, captain of the Faslane Flotilla, where HMS Astute is based, said: “Ian was a very gifted officer and had a great rapport with the crew. He was extremely professional and had an excellent understanding of technology.
“He was very proud of his Wigan roots and loved talking about rugby and the town’s famous pies. He was immensely proud of living here. Gillian has been extremely strong and the whole family has shown great courage.”
Addressing the congregation, HMS Astute Commanding Officer Iain Breckenridge described Mr Molyneux as “a gentle giant” with a “mischievous twinkle in his eye”.
He said: “I am lucky to have had such an exceptional man and gifted submarine officer as my weapons engineer.
“There was no doubt that wherever or whatever Ian was doing, his heart only belonged in one place; with Gillian, James, Arron, Bethany and Charlie in his beloved Wigan.”
Fellow Weapons Engineer Officer Richard Bowie said: “Ian was scarily intelligent, had an enormous appetite for detail and was highly driven.
“He inspired me while he lived to be better, to be braver, and as his memory and legacy endures, he will inspire us all.”
A card inside the hearse, among the floral tributes read: “My darling Ian, I will love you always, you will forever remain in my heart until we meet again, sleep well my forever love.”
Able Seaman Ryan Donovan, 22, of Dartford, Kent, has been remanded in custody charged with the murder of Lt Cdr Molyneux and the attempted murders of three others.