Search for missing Sophie Smith, from Gorleston, extended to Lowestoft coastline
- Credit: Archant
Hope of finding missing 21-year-old Sophie Smith safe and well is diminishing as time goes on, police have said.
The missing UEA student has not been seen since she vanished from her family’s seaside home in Avondale Road, Gorleston, in the night between Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
The police inspector leading the search, Will Drummond, said CCTV footage near her home showed a young woman, believed to be Sophie, running down the road towards the sea at about 3am.
He added that Sophie suffers from severe anxiety and depression and had been going through a “rough time” prior to her disappearance.
At a media briefing at Great Yarmouth police station on Thursday afternoon, Insp Drummond said: “What we have got is an image, we believe of her, running from the home address and towards the beach in Avondale Road.
“She is wearing a vest top and shorts, which is quite unprepared for the weather.
“What I can say is that from speaking to the family in great detail, Sophie suffers from severe anxiety and depression, which she was being treated for.
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“There was a level of what I would call preparation prior to running away. I think the combination of preparation and her mental state at the time, comments made, may suggest there is a likelihood that unfortunately she may have gone into the sea.”
She left believed to be wearing only a dark-coloured vest top and light-coloured shorts.
She did not have her mobile phone with her when she left home.
Insp Drummond said it was still being treated as a missing persons enquiry but added the first 48 hours of any search are vital in locating missing people.
He added: “We have diligently searched for Sophie and have investigated a range of scenarios but unfortunately there have been no confirmed sightings or contact since she left her property at 3am.”
He asked those who live in the vicinity to check their sheds and outbuildings in case Sophie has got disorientated and slept in the nearest place of shelter.
Volunteers have searched beaches for Sophie and officers had spoken to her friends and family, checked her social media accounts, conducted house-to-house inquiries and liaised with local hospitals.
Yesterday, the search for Sophie was extended to Suffolk with family, friends and volunteers helping to scour the Lowestoft coast.
The search took place at 11.30am, near the war memorial, as the massive operation to locate the missing 21-year-old continues.
Soon after she was reported missing a huge search involving the coastguard, police helicopter, police units, lifeboat crews and a specialist search team scoured the coast to try and find the young woman.
Insp Drummond said: “We are in close contact with Sophie’s family, who are being supported by officers at what is a very difficult time for them.
“However, due to the circumstances in which she left home with minimal clothing, no mobile phone, her mental state and the weather conditions, the hope of finding Sophie safe and well diminishes as time goes on.”
He said Sophie’s mother, Lynn Shaw, is grateful for the public’s support and assistance but had asked for privacy at this time.
Sophie is white, about 5ft 8ins tall, and slim with shoulder-length blonde hair.
Anyone with information should call Norfolk Police on 101.