IT WAS the send off that the country had come to expect from a town united in grief.

Thousands of people packed into the Polo Ground off Marlborough Road on Saturday night to pay tribute to tragic Sian O’Callaghan.

A two minute silence was followed by a round of applause, then children released balloons before thousands of lanterns were set off, lighting up the night sky in memory of the 22-year-old.

Queues of people lined up to leave messages of love to Sian, on posters originally designed to help find her after she was reported missing last Saturday.

The lanterns could also be seen across Swindon floating across the night sky.

Following the release, Father Mark Paris read the Lord’s Prayer before praising the Swindon community for their overwhelming support.

Becky Downey, 21, of Grange Park, said: “It is amazing to see so many people here at such short notice, everybody has been so touched by what has happened and we all just wanted to do whatever we could to show our support.

“I think this has been such a fitting tribute, the sky looks so beautiful.”

Some groups of youngsters even carried ‘S’ shaped silver balloons while others lit candles and took time to reflect on the week’s tragic events.

Jay Curtis, 18, of Rodbourne, said: “It has been such an awful week for the town, I don’t know anybody that hasn’t been affected by it, but this has been a really good tribute and I think the organisers have done themselves proud.”

And the messages of support continued on the Help Find Sian O’Callaghan Facebook group over the weekend.

Allyson Thomson said: “Absolutely amazing turn out, every balloon and lantern flew with nothing but love for Sian.

“I didn’t know her personally but I think Swindon’s Angel is a befitting name for someone who touched so many hearts.

“I hope with time, her family and friends will take comfort from knowing so many people felt their pain and wanted to be there to show support.”

Josh Bentley said: “I am sure Sian’s family are proud of how the Swindon community has pulled together to firstly try and find Sian, and now pay their respects to her passing.”

Jane Powles said: “It was an amazing turn out, the sky looked lush with all the lanterns and balloons.

“I didn’t know Sian but she was loved by so many people.”

Meanwhile, Swindon Town Ladies’ Under 12s wore black armbands and held a two minute silence in a cup game against Trowbridge Wanderers at Ballard’s Ash in Wootton Bassett, while Swindon Town FC players took to the pitch in Brighton wearing black armbands in memory of Sian.

An STFC spokesman said: “The club and the players wanted to show their respect to Sian and her family during what must be a terribly distressing time, and these gestures reflect the collective sympathy felt by everyone in the town.”

Two graffiti tributes have also popped up in the town over the past two days – one of the colourful designs can be seen on a wall in Savernake Street car park.