NEIGHBOURS of the Hampshire boy killed in the US school shooting have paid touching tribute to the little boy and his 'fantastic parents'.
Six-year-old Dylan Hockley was one of 20 children killed during the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown in Conneticut.
His family had moved to Newtown from their home in Eastleigh just last year.
The family’s former next door neighbour in Magpie Lane told of her “broken heart” after learning of Dylan’s death.
Maria Sweet, 81, a retired nanny, lives in the house next to Keeper’s Lodge, where the Hockleys lived for nearly nine years.
Maria said: “When I woke up and saw the news on the television my heart was just broken.
“I recognised Dylan’s face straight away because of that lovely smile of his.
“He was such a lovely little boy and very intelligent too, he enjoyed school. He was always outside on my front garden playing with his little brother, Jake.
“I would often offer him a drink and some biscuits and he’d come up to me and give me a cuddle. He was always so polite too. Every Christmas I would get him some chocolates, he had a very sweet tooth, and he never failed to thank me for them.”
Maria still has thank you cards from Dylan and his brother.
One read: “Dear Mrs Sweet, thank you so much for the chocolate bars, we love chocolate.
“We hope you had a nice Christmas and Happy New Year and hope to see you again soon.”
Maria added: “Ian and Nicole were wonderful people too and fantastic parents, I feel so sorry for them.
“They both had so much time for the kids and loved them so much. I can’t imagine how upset they will be right now, they will just be totally devastated.”
She told of a couple who worked hard and had the support of a nanny so they could focus on advancing their careers.
“Ian and Nicole worked so very hard here and I think they wanted to move to America for a quieter life,” she said.
“I remember Nicole being really excited about going and the two boys were looking forward to seeing their grandparents more.
“They thought it would be a nice place to bring up their children. They felt their life here was really full-on and Newtown seemed like a nice community to live in.”
Neighbour Linda Frith, 63, told how “happy go lucky” Ian had enjoyed showing off photographs of their new life in the pub.
She said: “He was so happy, it is such a shame. He said it was so rural with lots of British there.
“I could not stop crying and feel so bad for them.”
Another neighbour, Mike Wimbridge, said: “I’m absolutely shocked. We had a phone call to let us know what had happened and I just can’t believe it.
“For the boy to be taken like this is a real shock.”
Prayers were said yesterday for the family at their local church, St Nicholas’s in Eastleigh, and Advent candles were lit for them during the service.
Lay preacher Professor Roger Thornton said afterwards: “The first reaction was just horror – absolute horror that such a thing could happen. It’s devastating for all the families involved, but we particularly at this church wanted to remember Dylan today.
“I do hope that ultimately some good may come out of it and President Obama may reconsider the gun laws, although the National Rifle Association has already begun lobbying against it.”