We're having a wonderful American adventure, said Dylan's father. Days later, the British boy was deadThe father of the British boy murdered in U.S. school shooting had spoken warmly of the family's new lifeHe told former neighbours in UK that their new home was safe and peaceful
His son was killed by a crazed gunman at school a week later
01:03 GMT, 17 December 2012
Days before the tragedy, the father of a British boy killed in the Sandy Hook massacre told friends in the UK that his family was enjoying a ‘dream life’ in America.
Ian Hockley, whose six-year-old son Dylan was one of 20 youngsters murdered, had proudly shown former neighbours pictures of his two children when he returned to finalise the sale of their old home in Hampshire last week.
Mr Hockley, who is in his early 40s, told friends at his local pub that he and his U.S.-born wife, Nicole, were having a ‘wonderful American adventure’ after moving to New England with Dylan and his older brother Jake in January 2011.
Full of smiles: Dylan (left) with his brother Jake and parents Ian and Nicole. Ian had told friends and family back in the UK that they were having a wonderful time in America
Relatives said they emigrated for a ‘better life for the family’ and chose to settle in Newtown, Connecticut, because it seemed so ‘safe and peaceful’.
The house they moved into was directly across the street from the home of crazed gunman Adam Lanza, who opened fire in Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday after shooting his mother dead.
Before the massacre, Mrs Hockley gave a poignant interview to the local newspaper in Newtown, describing her new home as a ‘wonderful place to live’.
The devoted mother said the family had ‘felt happy and comfortable’ leaving Eastleigh, Hampshire, where she had lived with IBM finance manager Mr Hockley for nine years, to move to New England.
In the article posted on The Newtown Bee website, the 42-year old said: ‘The schools here have been amazing, and the people in my neighbourhood are incredible.
‘Newtown is a wonderful place to live and we’re looking forward to being here a long, long time.’
Mr Hockley’s cousin, David Lutkin, 48, from Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire, yesterday said the entire family was in shock.
‘They chose to move to that area because it’s the last place you’d expect something like that to happen and it had a good school,’ he said.
Heartbreaking: Dylan Hockley was described as a 'lovely little boy' by the family's next door neighbour
‘Obviously there was one bad apple in the neighbourhood. You can’t account for that.’
Mr Lutkin added that Dylan had been ‘very close’ to eight-year-old Jake, who would have taken the loss very hard.
‘They are just a fabulous family. They are not good at the moment.’
Maria Sweet, 81, a retired nanny who lived next door to the Hockleys in Eastleigh, said the news left her ‘brokenhearted’.
She said: ‘Dylan was such a lovely little boy and very intelligent too, he enjoyed school.
‘I would often offer him a drink and some biscuits and he’d come up to me and give me a cuddle.’
She still has cards from Dylan and his brother thanking her for presents.
One read: ‘Dear Mrs Sweet, thank you so much for the chocolate bars, we love chocolate. We hope you had a nice Christmas and Happy New Year and hope to see you again soon.’
She described Mr and Mrs Hockley as ‘fantastic parents’. She said: ‘They both had so much time for the kids and loved them so much.
‘Ian was back here only last week to finalise the sale of their house – they had settled in America and were enjoying life there.
‘Ian and Nicole worked so very hard here and I think they wanted to move to America for a quieter life.
‘I remember Nicole being really excited about going and the two boys were looking forwards to seeing their grandparents more. They thought it would be a nice place to bring up their children.’
Peter Missen, 55, of Southsea, Hampshire, who worked with Mr Hockley at IBM in Hampshire, said:
‘We kept in touch via Facebook and he would upload family snaps of himself with his beloved boys.
‘Although Ian was a serious professional man, he was happy go lucky and you could tell he was a doting dad.
Brothers: Dylan (left) and Jake were 'very close' according to a family member
He seemed very happy with their new life over in the States and this is absolutely tragic for them. I feel completely devastated.’
Dylan’s devastated grandmother Theresa Moretti, who lives in the US, said her daughter had previously described the town as ‘safe and lovely’.
She said she heard the news as she was out buying Christmas presents for Dylan and Jake.
‘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.
Happy: Dylan (top), Jake and father Ian. The family have lived in the U.S. for nearly two years
'She kept saying, “Mum, how do you tell an eight-year-old his six-year-old brother is dead and not coming back”
‘Jake was at school that day. He heard the gunfire that killed his brother.
'The family isn’t doing well . . . Why did he have to shoot 20 innocent babies They were only six and seven years old.
Killer: Adam Lanza shot 26 people dead, 20 of them schoolchildren aged five to ten, and then shot himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut
‘Dylan was a lovely boy. He had dimples and blue eyes and a mischievous grin . . . We are shattered and will never be the same.’
Close family friend Kristen Trudeau said the Hockleys were being comforted by hundreds of messages of support that have flooded in.
But she said the family’s agony was made even worse by the fact that they lived in the same road as Lanza.
‘They are totally bereft over the loss of Dylan, but to know you have lived with the killer is just unreal,’ the mother of two said.
Another friend added: ‘Losing your son in such a way is unimaginable, but having to live within sight of the killer’s home is just sick.
'They must want to get away from here as quickly as possible.’
Mrs Trudeau, 36, and her husband Brian, 38, got to know the Hockley family soon after they moved to Newtown.
Mrs Hockley joined a newcomers’ club and with another British woman, Jillian Cruwys, became one of the main organisers. The club arranges social events to help people moving into the town make friends.
The family were also regular visitors to a shop that sold British goods in Newtown called UK Gourmet.
‘The children like to go there to get their Flakes and other chocolate bars,’ said a friend. ‘I don’t think the boys really liked our American chocolate.’
Prayers were said yesterday for the family at St Nicholas’s Church in Eastleigh, and advent candles were lit for them during the service.
Teacher hid pupils in closet and sacrificed her life to save them from gunman
Bravery: Victoria Soto, 27, is believed to have sacrificed her life to save the children in her care
Out of the chaos and horror of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School emerged incredible stories of bravery and selflessness from teachers and staff who were prepared to lay down their lives to protect the children in their care.
Teacher Victoria Soto is believed to have hidden her pupils in a classroom closet but stood outside, possibly because there was no room for her to hide in there too.
When Lanza demanded to know where the children were, the 27-year-old lied and told him they were at the other end of the school in the auditorium.
But six of her pupils tried to escape and Lanza shot them, Miss Soto and a teaching assistant who was in the room.
Police later opened the closet and found the remaining seven members of the class, who told them what had happened.
Miss Soto’s cousin Jim Wiltsie said: ‘She took her kids, put them in the closet and by doing so she lost her life protecting those little ones.
'I’m just proud that Vicki had the instincts to protect her kids from harm.’
He added: ‘It brings peace to know that Vicki was doing what she loved, protecting the children, and, in our eyes, she’s a hero.’
Miss Soto, who had worked at the school for five years, was popular with the students – not least because she liked to chew gum in class, a habit usually frowned upon during lessons.
The teacher, who lived with her family in nearby Stratford, Connecticut, was single and doted on her black labrador Roxy. She called her pupils her ‘little angels’, said a friend.
Scores of mourners, including Miss Soto’s mother Donna, sisters Karly and Jillian and brother Matthew, gathered in Stratford on Saturday night for an emotional vigil.
Grief: Donna Soto (right), mother of Victoria, the first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School who was shot and killed while protecting her students, hugs her daughter Karly (centre)