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The Daily Telegraph

Star swim at Heath Ledger's farewell

By Michelle Cazzulino and Stephen Corby February 10, 2008 12:00am

AFTER a tragic, tear-stained day of reflection and regret, Heath Ledger's wake turned into the sort of party he would have loved.

As the sun began to set, about 200 mourners swept out of the restaurant on Perth's Cottesloe Beach - where the function was being held - tore off their clothes and ran, cheering and laughing, into the ocean.

Crumpled suits and formal dresses littered the sand as friends and family members linked arms and splashed about in their underwear.

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Among the celebrities taking the plunge were Joel and Nash Edgerton and Rose Byrne, while Ledger's former fiancee, Michelle Williams, kicked off her shoes and was dragged in.

Heath's father, Kim, watched from the balcony, giving the swimmers two thumbs up and cheering repeatedly: "Hip, hip hooray!''

As one of the mourners observed: "It's what Heath would have wanted.''

As the sun began to melt into the Indian Ocean, a crowd of about 50 mourners gathered around Williams and Ledger's sister, Kate.

As the two women sat huddled under a towel, with the waves breaking over their feet, the group linked arms.

Several voices rose as one to shout: "The sun goes down on our love, but it will never go down on our Heathy.''

Tears flowed as the group lapsed into a sombre silence for the final farewell to Ledger.

Earlier, the 28-year-old star was cremated in his home town, following a star-studded tribute held at an exclusive girls' school.

Hollywood actress Cate Blanchett gave a "funny and moving'' eulogy at the two-hour service, which drew mourners from the world of entertainment, football and politics.

Among them was a tearful and dishevelled-looking Gemma Ward, rumoured to have been dating Ledger, and disgraced AFL player Ben Cousins.

Williams arrived in a police-escorted convoy at Penrhos College at 12.30pm, without their two-year-old daughter, Matilda.

Looking pale and shell-shocked, Williams gripped the hand of Ledger's sister, Kate, as she was led into the service.

She broke down inside as Matilda's Montage, a video tribute featuring pictures of the toddler and her father, was played, accompanied by a song called Matilda, written by Ben Harper.

The program handed out to mourners featured a photograph of a grinning Ledger sitting on a New York park bench.

It read: "This room is filled with the love we all felt for a great friend who will be missed by all of us.

"We want to thank those of you who took care of him and participated in his beautiful life.''

People magazine report that among the songs played atthe service were Powderfinger's These Days, Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here and Bob Dylan's The Times They Are A-Changin'.

A family video montage was followed by a compilation of the actor's movie career.

Following the service, 10 family members were given a police escort to Fremantle Cemetery for the cremation. Security was intense, with the windows of the small chapel blacked out.

Williams read Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 - "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day'' - at the intimate service.

Ledger's ashes will be interred in a family plot at the cemetery, next to those of two of his grandparents.

It was the fourth - and final - goodbye for Ledger, who died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs in his New York apartment on January 22.

Noticeably absent from yesterday's memorial was Jake Gyllenhaal, Ledger's best friend and co-star in Brokeback Mountain.

Gyllenhaal has remained secluded as he comes to terms with his mate's death.

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