Hundreds gather to celebrate the life of dog handler killed in Afghanistan

Liam Tasker's comrades carried his coffin from the church

TEARS and tributes flowed today at the funeral of an “amazing” Scottish soldier who died with his dog in Afghanistan.

The funeral of 26-year-old Lance Corporal Liam Tasker was held in his home town of Tayport in Fife, with hundreds of mourners turning out to pay their respects.

The ceremony was held at Tayport Parish Church for the soldier, who was part of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps.

He died after being hit by a sniper while he was on patrol with his springer spaniel dog Theo.

Theo died later while on his way back to the base at Camp Bastion, following a seizure. His ashes, which were flown home on the same plane as Liam?s body, have been handed over to the soldier’s family.

LC Tasker and Theo had set a record after detecting 14 IEDs (improvised explosive devices) during their five months spent in the region.

Mum Jane Duffy, dad Ian Tasker, stepdad Jimmy Duffy, brother Ian Tasker, sister Laura Tasker, stepsiblings Nicola, Katherine and Michael and Liam’s girlfriend Leah Waters followed the coffin, barely able to contain their grief.

Older brother Ian kept one arm securely around his mother’s shoulders, as they watched their ?”courageous Liam”? being taken into the church by six army soldiers.

Mrs Duffy, who had travelled from her home in Belgium, yelled out: ?”Well done boys”? to the men.

The coffin, covered in a Union flag, had the search-and-detect dog handler’s hat and belt balanced on top and was marched into the Church to ?”The Funeral”? by Band of Horses, music which was said to be “very special” to Liam.

Inside, Ian addressed the congregation and told how blessed he and the “very tight knit family”?felt to have had Liam in their lives.

He said: “Liam was the kind of person who could give anyone a boost when they were feeling down.

“I was lucky enough to go out and spend time with him while he was out there and we spoke of all the things we would do when he returned.

“He wanted me to help him polish up his DJing skills.?

Ian’s voice broke as he said: “I was looking forward to sharing so many things with my little brother, and unfortunately now I will never have the chance.?

He added: “We have always felt blessed to have two fantastic dads, Jim, who is known as dad, and Ian, who is dad dad.

“Liam always said every day is a gift and not a given right. So please join me in using this day to celebrate his life rather than mourn his death.”?

Richard McCord, Liam’s uncle, also stood to speak, reminding the congregation Liam’s ?”cheeky smile”? and said he was always ?”striving for something extra”.

The soldier’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel David Thorpe, said every bullet, bomb and weapon Liam and Theo had detected had saved the life of a colleague or innocent civilian in Afghanistan.

He said: ”Liam was a natural dog man. He had an uncanny empathy with dogs.

“But Liam was not just a very professional and enthusiastic, amazing soldier. He was fun and a pleasure to be around.

“I’ve been told stories about how he would fill his shoes with the remains of his drinks when out on a night out with friends in Reading, to avoid wasting anything.”?

The memories were met with chuckles from the congregation, which was led by Reverend Brian Oxburgh.

The hymn ?”Make Me a Channel of Your Peace”? was sung and the coffin was carried out by the same six soldiers to ?”Sailing”? by Christopher Corpe.

Liam’s family gathered at the entrance of the church, watching on gravely as his coffin was placed gently back in the funeral car. His brother never left his mother’s side.

Flower wreaths designed to say ?”son”? and ?”dude”? were also placed in the vehicle.

The soldier’s body was taken to a private burial, where a 12-strong team of soldiers were said to be firing a salute.

LC Tasker was the 358th UK military personnel to have died during operations in Afghanistan since 2001. He had previously said he ?loved? his job.