25 JANUARY 2008

Amid the preparations to lay to rest a beloved son and brother, Heath Ledger's nearest and dearest have spoken of their devastating grief over the loss of the young Australian actor.

The heartfelt tributes appeared in Australian newspapers as the family was expected to fly to New York to arrange memorial services for the star, whose death from a suspected overdose of sleeping pills caused shockwaves around the globe on Tuesday.

Writing in Perth daily The West, the Brokeback Mountain star's mother, Sally addresses her son directly, saying: "Our darling boy, special in so many ways to all of us. You knew you were so loved."

"You lived life with courage and daring and we are so grateful for the wonderful times we shared. We will be there for Matilda," she continues, referring to her two-year-old granddaughter.

In another moving message his older sister Kate calls him by his pet name, Roast. "I will continue to... love you just as if you were here. You will never leave my thoughts Roast, ever," she writes.

It is understood Heath will be remembered in a memorial service on both New York and Los Angeles before being laid to rest in his homeland at a private funeral.

Photo: © Alphapress.com
As fans continued to leave floral tributes to the Australian star outside his New York home, the young actor's relatives have paid tribute to him in the Australian pressPhoto: © Getty Images
Photo: © Alphapress.com
Heath's parents and sister, seen here speaking to reporters just outside their home shortly after hearing the news, have published a notice in their local paper remembering the starPhoto: © AFP
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