A family of four who were killed as they returned home from a holiday in France were laid to rest yesterday.

Malcolm and Janice Dowling and their sons Richard, aged 16, and 11-year-old George died when their car was involved in a seven-vehicle crash in Oxford last month.

The family, who lived in Trent Valley Road, Lichfield, Staffordshire, had been heading back from a break in Brittany when the accident happened.

Speaking at the funeral, Rev David Beedon, Rector of St Mary with St Michael Lichfield and St John Wall, told mourners: "In my 18 years of conducting funerals I have never been involved in a funeral so sad and so tragic.

"Two generations of loved ones who will not outlive their parents - neither Richard and George, nor Malcolm and Janice. The tragedy feels grossly unnatural and unfair."

The congregation at St Michael's Church in Lichfield was told how the family had been very close and loved their home, even though they had only lived there for a relatively short time.

"Their home was a work in progress but was already, the centre around which school, work, friendships, recreation, leisure, pastimes and the life they shared as a family revolved," Mr Beedon said.

"Their home where they returned to at the end of their day to be together.

"But this one time they never came home."

He continued: "Undoubtedly, as is true for the whole family and all of you whose lives have been touched by that of the Dowling family, the loss is unbearable.

"But there is one thing in all this that has meant so much to the family. Something that in all the tragedy, loss and sorrow cannot be taken away and which brings great comfort to Malcolm, Janice, Richard and George's loved ones.

"That is the knowledge that even in death, as so much in life, they were together as a family.

"Even in death they were not separated from one another."

Following the accident, a family spokesman had told how Mr Dowling and his wife had been looking forward to working on their garden after the break.

Richard had celebrated his 16th birthday and was awaiting results having completed his education at the city's Netherstowe High School.

He was hoping to start at course at Tamworth College in September with a view to a career with the police.

George had just finished at Scotch Orchard Primary School and was due to start at Netherstowe in September.