The heartbroken family of a teenager who died in Sunderland city centre say they have been “overwhelmed” by the community’s kindness in the aftermath of his death.
Connor Brown, 18, died after being found behind The Borough pub, in Sunderland, in the early hours of February 24 with stab wounds.
Since the tragic incident, the city centre has been awash with floral tributes and moving messages as his family, friends and the wider public have come together to pay their respects to the popular teenager.
Connor’s name echoed around the Stadium of Light on Saturday (March 2) as fans conducted an 18th-minute applause in his memory, while hundreds of people gathered for a balloon release in Farringdon 24 hours earlier in a stirring tribute to the GP practice receptionist.
His parents have now thanked everyone on Wearside and beyond for their incredible support shown since the tragedy, and have paid tribute to their wonderful son who “had a smile that could light up a room”.
“Without the kindness shown by people, we would have crumbled,” the family, who live in Sunderland, said.
“The community have really kept us going. We’ve received letters and cards from all over the country, even from people we don’t know, who have expressed their sorrow and passed on their nice words. We can’t thank everyone enough.
“Connor’s death has touched the hearts of so many people, and Sunderland has really come together over the last couple of weeks. It’s reminded us of the kindness of people – the North-East does have a heart.
“It’s been overwhelming – everything from being inside the stadium to the balloon release and the minute’s silence in Illusions nightclub last weekend. Connor won’t have believed it – he’ll be laughing and smiling, as he always did.
“We’d just like to thank everybody – his friends, the community, Sunderland Football Club – anyone and everyone who has shown such warmth and kindness towards us at such a difficult time. We’ll be forever grateful.”
Connor’s parents described their son as a real “people person” with a burning work ethic, as evident through his role as a receptionist at the Happy House Surgery on Durham Road.
In his spare time, the former Farringdon Community Academy student and life-long Sunderland supporter loved playing sport, going to the gym and hanging out with friends.
“As parents, you always want to do best by your children,” they added. “Connor was somebody who always had his heart in the right place. He was kind, respectful and had so much love to give.
“He never asked for anything. He always had a real work ethic to achieve and do things the right way. He was out working aged 13 – delivering the Echo on his paper round – and then he’d treat himself and spend whatever he had earned on a few nice things.
“His smile was infectious. Everybody who knew Connor knew that smile – and every time he was out or was photographed he’d have that big grin on his face, a smile that lit up a room.
“He was the life and soul of the group and had a fantastic group of friends who all loved his personality and everything he was.
“Words can’t describe what life will be like without him. He had so much to live for – and so much more to give.”
A fund which was set up by a family friend to support Connor’s loved ones in the aftermath of his death has raised over £27,000, with more than 1,400 people donating over the last fortnight.
Among those to have donated is Wearside-born Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson.
“Connor was so well-liked. He was the most wonderful young man – and we’ve been blown away by the number of people who’ve come forward to pay their respects,” his family added.
“He was one in a million. We are so proud of Connor and everything he was, but it’s devastating that he won’t have the chance to go on to achieve what we know he would have.
“Words can’t describe the pain we’re feeling. We’d please ask that the whole family are given the time and space needed as we all try to come to terms with our loss.”
Two men have been charged with murder following Connor’s death and are due to stand trial later this year.