FAMILY and friends have paid tribute to a popular young woman who died in her sleep on Christmas Eve.

More than 100 people gathered at Sanctuary bar in Basingstoke town centre last Saturday night for a special event to celebrate the life of 30-year-old Laura Finney.

Laura, whose father is former Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council leader Andrew Finney, passed away at her mother’s home in Shropshire. She had lived in Basingstoke for the last four years, and worked for her father’s relocation company.

Mr Finney, who attended last Saturday’s event, said he and other members of the family were touched by the celebration of Laura’s life.

He told The Gazette: “Laura was bubbly, vibrant and full of life, and that’s how her friends wanted to remember her, and that’s how I want to remember her.”

Friends and family came to Sanctuary bar to celebrate the life of Laura, who died in her sleep on Christmas Eve.

Scores of guests attended the celebration event last Saturday night, and they dressed in bright colours, as requested by organisers Anja Blau, 27, and 22-year-old Alice Hoole, who were friends of Laura.

Anja, 27, from Oakridge, Basingstoke, said: “We were celebrating Laura’s life – she was a hurricane of life. She had a lot of friends in Basingstoke and everyone wanted to be a part of the event, with so many people trying to help out.”

Alice, who lived with Laura near the Top of The Town, said: “She was like my big sister. She knew everyone in town because everybody loved her.”

The bar, where Laura had worked part-time as a barmaid and events organiser, was decorated in bright colours and balloons for the night.

Live music and DJs provided entertainment, while balloons were dropped from the ceiling when 99 Red Balloons was played.

Guests were able to write their personal tributes to Laura, known as Lala to her friends, in a book upstairs, or paint their tribute on a blank canvas.

Laura’s father Andrew, who is chairman of Anvil Arts, attended the event with his second wife Lorraine.

Mr Finney, who was borough council leader from May 2008 to December 2011 and still represents Oakley and North Waltham, said: “I cannot believe the efforts her friends have put into celebrating her life.

“But obviously it is comforting and painful in equal measure because it makes you realise what has been lost as well as the wonderful friends she met.”

Work colleagues of Laura, who was a business development executive at HCR – the relocation specialists based in Basing View, where Mr Finney is managing director – also came to the party.

Nick Bentliff, 46, of The Harrow Way, Basingstoke, said: “What I loved about her was she was very positive about life, which makes it all the more difficult tonight. The world has been robbed of a bright light.”

Bar owner Dell Summers put on a free buffet with Thai food, and people could donate 50p to The Willis Museum, where Laura was a volunteer.

Mr Summers said: “When Laura worked here, the whole place changed. We started having different parties each week for no particular reason other than to create a fun and happy atmosphere.”

Laura was staying with her mother Liz and her two sisters Bethan, 33, and Annabel, 26, in Shropshire when she was found dead on Christmas Eve.

The cause of her death has not yet been established although it is thought it could be Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, a previously undiagnosed heart condition.

Laura also leaves behind a stepbrother Ben, 18, and stepsister Becki, 21, who live with Mr and Mrs Finney near Baughurst.

You can leave a tribute to Laura by using the comment box below.