NINE years after Daniel Morcombe left his Sunshine Coast home to go Christmas shopping, he was laid to rest on Friday by his parents Denise and Bruce, his older brother Dean and his twin Bradley.
Daniel was a presence at the ceremony, with a photo montage played during the service.
''He was not an attention-seeker, yet because of his sparkling eyes and beaming smile captured in photo after photo, he is someone everyone took into their hearts,'' Bruce Morcombe said. ''That is what made him special.''
His disappearance 12 days before his 14th birthday became a case that rocked the nearby communities and the state, with the mystery of his last sighting at a bus stop haunting police until an arrest last year.
The intervening years were etched on the faces of Daniel's friends and schoolmates, as they returned to Siena Catholic College to say their final goodbyes. Now in their early 20s, they remembered a young friend who loved nothing more than stuffing his face with food that his mother wouldn't approve of and running around causing mischief.
''It was … recommended you don't stand between him and a birthday cake,'' Dean said of Daniel during the service.
The Morcombes had asked for Daniel's day to be filled with hope, love and faith. Inside the St Catherine of Siena Church and in the grounds outside, this was given in abundance.
''A moment in time that will live with us forever occurred nine years ago today,'' Bruce Morcombe said. ''Appreciate that the evil act which took Daniel happened a long time ago … Today is about embracing his return to family and being reflective of what might have been.''
Close to 2000 people attended the memorial service, a degree of attention his father believed would have amused his son. After rising from the service, during which tears had flowed freely, past and present students of Siena Catholic College formed an honour guard to escort Daniel to his final resting place. He was taken to Woombye Cemetery with just his family, who requested privacy.
As the hearse left the grounds, hemmed by a police escort, the crowd applauded and exchanged hugs. There were ''names'' in the crowd: representatives from all tiers of government, former and current police commissioners and local celebrities.
But the service was also a day for the family to thank the police officers who had dedicated their careers to the investigation, the volunteers who searched for years and the strangers who sent hope, prayers and strength.
Daniel was farewelled with the Christmas presents he never got to open, the report card he would have been proud to show his parents and favourite family photos, placed on his white coffin.
On August 13 last year, Brett Peter Cowan was arrested and charged with Daniel's murder.
The story Daniel laid to rest with presents he never got to open first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.