Th e family of a man whose disappearance “united the community” have expressed their gratitude to the people of Leighton-Linslade ahead of his funeral next month.
The public-funded service for Neil Devlin, whose disappearance sparked a town-wide manhunt, will be “packed” with well wishers, according to a neighbour.
Neil, 37, from Town Bridge Mill, Linslade, went missing on New Year’s Day and a subsequentFacebook campaign saw the community band together for his safe return, organising searches and making sure that the 37-year-old’s cat was fed.
Neil’s body was found in the River Ouzel seven weeks after his disappearance.
Following his death a candlelit vigil was held at Morrisons, where he worked, which more than 200 attended.
A online campaign was also launched to help fund Neil’s funeral, which vastly exceeded expectations to raise full costs of £2,000.
Neil will be laid to rest at All Saints Church at 1.30pm on May 8.
Neighbour and campaign creator Glenn Haynes says he expects the funeral to be “packed” with residents who did not directly know Neil, but who helped with the search effort.
He said: “Neil’s last quest has brought us all together as a community.
“A lot of people only knew him from working at Morrisons but gave so much towards this.
“It was a really great result as I was only expecting us to be able to help towards the cost of the funeral, not cover it entirely.
“I can’t put into words that feeling. It proves that Leighton Buzzard is a nice place to live and the people care about each other.
“I met Neil’s father last week and he was so thankful for what has been done, he wanted to let everybody known how much his family appreciates it.”
Excess funds from the online campaign, to which 205 people donated £2,117, will be donated to Midshires Search and Rescue which assisted with the search for Neil.
Mr Haynes added: “At the time we realised how unequipped Midshires are so it would be good if we were able to help them out with funds.
“On reflection the reaction to the search was overwhelming, we had 3,000 strong looking for Neil.
“We did not get the outcome we wanted but it is remarkable so many turned out.
“Although many cannot attend the funeral due to work commitments I’m expecting the church to be full.
“It will be a way for many of us to say goodbye to Neil. I would like to think that he is smiling down on us now.”
Commenting on the online giving page Lee Marsden wrote: “On behalf of Neil’s family I would like to say thank you so much for all the support you have offered be that financially or the amazing kind words you have all posted.”