Newtown shooting: British family of victim thank community for support

British family of US school shooting victim Dylan Hockley, six, say they took comfort from knowing son died in the arms of teaching assistant

The British family of six-year-old Dylan Hockley, who was one of 20 children shot dead in a school shooting in Connecticut on Friday, have spoken of their gratitude for an outpouring of support from around the world.

In a moving statement Ian and Nicole Hockley, who moved to the US last year with their son Dylan and her older brother Jake, said they had been humbled by the overwhelming support from their "beautiful community" and around the world.

In a statement the couple said they took "great comfort" from knowing the six-year-old died in the arms of one of his favourite teaching assistants. "We take great comfort in knowing that Dylan was not alone when he died, but was wrapped in the arms of his amazing aide, Anne Marie Murphy. Dylan loved Mrs Murphy so much and pointed at her picture on our refrigerator every day," they said. "Though our hearts break for Dylan, they are also filled with love for these and the other beautiful women who all selflessly died trying to save our children."

The Hockleys said despite the violent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which resulted in the deaths of eight boys and 12 girls in first grade as well as six adults, they did not regret moving to Newtown last January.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the other families who have also been affected by this tragedy," they said . "We are forever bound together and hope we can support and find solace with each other."

The couple described being warmly welcomed into the community that has been left in shocked grief since Friday, when lone gunman 20-year-old Adam Lanza went on a killing spree in the Sandy Hook school before taking his own life. He had earlier shot his mother. "Sandy Hook and Newtown have warmly welcomed us since we moved here two years ago from England," said the family. "We specifically chose Sandy Hook for the community and the elementary school. We do not and shall never regret this choice. Our boys have flourished here and our family's happiness has been limitless."

They praised the school's teachers, adding that their son, who had special educational needs, was learning to read when he died and was "so proud when he read us a new book every day". The statement read: "We cannot speak highly enough of Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, exceptional women who knew both our children and who specifically helped us navigate Dylan's special education needs. Dylan's teacher, Vicki Soto (who died trying to save the children in her classroom), was warm and funny and Dylan loved her dearly."

Nicole Hockley, an American marketing consultant, had lived in Britain for 18 years before the family moved to the US in January 2011. Dylan's grandmother Theresa Moretti told the Mail on Sunday how happy they had been after moving to Newtown. "They chose that town to live in specifically because the school was so good. My daughter told me: 'It's safe and lovely here, Mum.'"

Moretti was buying presents for her grandchildren when her daughter called to break the news. "On Friday I was out buying Christmas presents for Dylan and his big brother Jake who is eight. I got a garbled message on my answerphone from my daughter. She was almost incoherent. I called her back and she told me what had happened. She kept saying: 'Mum, how do you tell an eight-year-old his six-year-old brother is dead and not coming back?''