“I LOVE you mam and dad, happy New Year, see you soon.”
Those were the words of tragic Mark Denton in a loving text sent to his parents just minutes before his brutal killing.
As they prepared to say a final goodbye to him today, his distraught parents have paid a touching tribute to their youngest son by describing Mark as a “talented, dedicated and loving young man”.
His heartbroken and tearful mum, Ann, 69, told the Mail: “It feels as though my heart has been ripped out.
“I just can’t believe he’s not going to walk back through the door.
“I keep thinking it’s a bad dream and I’m going to wake up.”
Hundreds of people were set to gather today to pay tribute and celebrate Mark’s life at his funeral at the Borough Hall, on the Headland, the venue which hosted some magical nights in the ring for talented boxer Mark and his older brother Craig, 32.
Mark’s life was taken from him at just 31-years-old when he was killed at a house party in Hutton Avenue, Hartlepool, on New Year’s Eve.
Two Hartlepool men, David Sowerby and Anthony Middleton, have been charged with his murder and are currently remanded in custody ahead of a court date in April.
Today, on the day they lay their son to rest, Mark’s parents Ann and Brian, 64, who Mark and his girlfriend Sarah Kinnie lived with in the town’s Granville Avenue, have described the family’s devastation and heartache.
Ann, a retired bookbinder and art teacher, revealed the family have received hundreds of letters and cards of condolence but the devastated mum has been unable to bring herself to read through them all.
But she says she will, in time, and will keep them all forever as a reminder of how popular Mark was in the area.
Ann said: “I haven’t touched his room, I’ve left it exactly how he left it.
“When I go in there I can still smell his aftershave.”
Ann and Brian received Mark’s loving text message late on New Year’s Eve.
But shortly afterwards they were told Mark had been stabbed at a party.
The couple rushed to hospital where they faced the heart-wrenching moment of being told their son had lost his fight for life.
Ann has faced the devastation of losing children in the past.
In 1977, the couple’s twins Victoria and Maxine were born premature and tragically passed away.
The year later loving Ann faced heartbreak again when she miscarried, again carrying twins.
Today, Mark will be laid to rest alongside Victoria and Maxine at Stranton Crematorium, in the town.
Paying tribute to their son, Brian, a builder by trade, said: “Mark has always been a confident lad, he took everything in his stride.
“He was so dedicated in everything he did, especially his boxing.”
An inquest into Mark’s death was opened and adjourned last week. The next date has yet to be set.
The two men who have been charged with his murder, Sowerby, 23, of Allerton Close, Hartlepool, and Middleton, 21, of Bruntoft Avenue, Hartlepool, are next due at Teesside Crown Court, in Middlesbrough, on Monday April 7, when they are expected to enter either guilty, or not guilty, pleas to the charge.