George Michael fans celebrate his life at memorial service

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George Michael in Concert - Birmingham

George Michael fans were finally able to pay their respects to the star at the first public memorial for the singer.

The Service of Thanksgiving in Bushey, Hertfordshire - where he grew up - was attended by hundreds of people who travelled from across the world. The singer, 53, died of natural causes at his home in Goring-on-Thames last December.

Held at St James The Apostle church, it featured some of his best known hits including Jesus to a Child and Wham! hit Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.

It was followed by a wake at the Three Crowns pub, where the band was formed.

George Michael Appreciation Group founder Tracey Wills, who organised the event, said: "I have always been a fan and I decided that I was going to do something for him because he has done so much for everyone else.

"The turnout was incredible. I can't believe it. People have come from Spain and Malta.

"George left such a mark on a lot people and I felt like we needed to do something for him. The fans needed somewhere to grieve.

"I put this together for George, for the fans. I wish his family were here to be able to see this."

Members of the congregation had to take a second glance when Saf Sathi walked into the church. Dressed in a black suit, with a black t-shirt, aviators and trademark goatee, the die-hard fan could easily have been mistaken for the Faith singer.

Speaking at the wake, he recalled meeting Michael outside the star's home in Hampstead, north London.

He said: "I just went with a couple of fans that day. We were in the pub opposite and when we saw the door open, we just went up to the house.

"George asked if I wanted a photo. He was just so nice. He commented on my look and said 'I see you have got the same beard'."

The 49-year-old added: "I really wanted to come here to pay my respects. It was really important for me to be here today and that the church organised it.

"It was really nice for the fans to be able to come together and remember George."

The retailer had travelled to the memorial from Gravesend in Kent, but others had come from across the world, including Switzerland.

Fabi Gomez, 46, from Zurich, and her wife Swana Kappler, said Michael had been the third party in their 20-year-long relationship.

She said: "At our wedding in 2007 one of our friends came dressed as George Michael, as a drag king and our friend performed Fast Love."

She added: "We were very disappointed that there was no public funeral, so we just needed to come and put a flower where he lived.

"It was a really lovely service and it was so nice at the end when they played Wake Me Up Before You Go Go and everyone was clapping.

"It was more a celebration of his life, which I think he would have wanted."