A DEVASTATED mother has paid tribute to a community that rallied round to support her on the ‘worst day of her life’.
Viv Johnston praised the remarkable kindness shown by people across the area in the wake of her son Danny Johnston’s tragic death in May.
Speaking for the first time since his funeral at Chichester Cathedral last month, the visibly emotional 61-year-old said: ‘The support was overwhelming. It was awesome. We could not believe how in less than 24 hours of Danny going missing that people from all over the country came down to help.
‘It was absolutely amazing.’
Hundreds of people attended his funeral with friends and colleagues from Danny’s former army unit - 3rd Battalion, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment - providing a ceremonial guard of honour.
Viv, whose living room is adorned with pictures of her son smiling, added: ‘The funeral was surreal. A little tiny bit of me wished it was just us but seeing all of that was so uplifting, knowing so many people loved him and admired him and wanted to be there to say goodbye.
‘It was the worst day of my life but there was something very positive about it as well. You know you’re never going to see anything like that again, not because it was my son but because there were so many people.’
Mr Johnston disappeared from his family home in Bognor on May 20, sparking a huge search that was joined by veterans, friends, family and strangers from Littlehampton, Bognor, Chichester, Portsmouth and Brighton.
An appeal on social media was also shared more than 1,000 times and was described by charity leaders as ‘remarkable’.
Tragically his body was found three days later in woodland outside of Chichester.
Holding back tears, Viv described how her son was a ‘real joker’ and a ‘kind’ man, always putting others before himself.
‘He really was an incredible person, absolutely amazing,’ she said. ‘We found so much about who he was after he died.
‘I’m proud beyond belief of Danny. He was wonderful - he would drive me mad one day and the next he would have you in stitches.
‘He was funny as hell. He got me in some right pickles. He used to text me and say “mum, my phone’s not working, can you ring this number and ask for Liz” and it turned out to be Buckingham Palace. Another time it was an STD clinic. He was a real joker.’
A special remembrance event will be taking place in Danny’s honour on Friday (July 20) at the Newtown Social Club, Greencourt Drive, Bognor.
The event, from 7pm to 11pm, will feature live music and a bar. Entry is £2 with all the cash raised going to charity.
Mr Johnston was born on February 17, 1983, and died on May 23. He leaves mum Viv, sister Sophie, 45, younger brother Lucas, 30 and stepfather Graham Crawley.