A SHATTERED family today spoke of their heartbreak after their son died from suspected meningitis.
Sunderland University student Christopher McKee, 21, was found dead by friends at flats in Pallion just 11 days ago.
Tests indicated a meningococal infection may have led to his death. Students who were in close contact with Christopher have been offered tests and treatment with antibiotics.
His parents Anna and Samuel McKee, from Ballymena, Northern Ireland, today told of the joy, Christopher (pictured), a sports journalism student, had brought into their lives.
They said: “We are still struggling to find the words to describe how we feel at this time, but we are all absolutely devastated and shocked by the news of our son’s death.
“Christopher was a quiet and considerate young man, who never made a fuss and was incredibly close to his family. He had a huge respect for people of all ages and had a wonderful Christian upbringing.
“He was exceptionally close to us and his brother Leslie, 27, and sister Lynsay, 24, throughout their lives they never had a falling out. We will always be very proud of Christopher and what he had achieved throughout his life.”
Mr and Mrs McKee said Christopher had hoped to become a sports reporter after graduating from Sunderland. They said their whole community was mourning his loss.
“It had always been his dream and ambition,” they said. “He had such an encyclopaedic knowledge of sport and everyone used to joke that he would be the next Jackie Fullerton, the famous Northern Ireland television journalist, when he headed off to university.
“He was a huge Manchester United and Rangers fan and loved playing football socially.”
They added: “We have been hugely comforted and overwhelmed by the support from our family and friends in our local community in Ballymena. Our home has literally been inundated with thousands of people offering their support following the news, which demonstrates just how popular Christopher was to all those he knew and met.
“Our whole community is in mourning and supporting each other at this difficult time.”
The university has stressed the cause of the popular student’s death is still being investigated by the coroner and is still to be confirmed.
Staff at the university said they area now working closely with the Health Protection Agency (HPA) to offer advice and guidance while the case is investigated by Sunderland coroner Derek Winter.
A university spokeswoman said: “We are all deeply saddened by Christopher’s death and have been offering our support to his family, friends and students.
“He was an intelligent student who had a bright future ahead of him and it is tragic that his life has been cut short.”