Fears for missing teenage girl

A TEENAGE girl's family have told of their fears for her safety after she became "besotted" with a pen pal and ran away from home.Police have launched a hunt for 16-year-old Shantel Summerfield, who has been missing from her family home in Wix, near Harwich, for more than a week.

A TEENAGE girl's family have told of their fears for her safety after she became "besotted" with a pen pal and ran away from home.

Police have launched a hunt for 16-year-old Shantel Summerfield, who has been missing from her family home in Wix, near Harwich, for more than a week.

Her mother, Linda, 46, said Shantel had recently become obsessed with a man called Derek, whom she met through a television pen friend programme.

Mrs Summerfield has not heard from the shy teenager since she left her nearby grandparents' house eight days ago, leaving a note saying she


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"wanted to start a new life".

Detectives investigating the disappearance of the former Tendring Technology College student fear she may have met up with Derek, a 19-year-old man from Northern Ireland.

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Mrs Summerfield said: "There used to be a programme on the television where you send for a pen friend. Shantel registered then did not look at it for weeks.

"Then, one day she suddenly said, 'Oh look, my address is on there'.

"Then there was a letter from a chap in Northern Ireland called Derek and she kept writing to him."

Shantel, a huge Ipswich Town fan, started receiving regular letters from Derek after first making contact late last year.

In May, the teenager asked if Derek could visit, but her concerned mother and protective brothers Jason, 25, and Robert, 29, were not happy with him staying at their house.

Mrs Summerfield said: "I didn't think it was that serious. She seemed to be a little bit besotted by him."

Her mother said Shantel became withdrawn, spending a lot of time alone in her room or visiting Harwich Library, where she sent emails.

Two weeks ago, on July 14, the mother and daughter argued again when Shantel again asked if Derek could come to stay.

Mrs Summerfield said her daughter claimed Derek was going to buy her a diamond ring, but she forbade her from going to London to collect it.

"And she replied: 'Fine then, you don't know him. I've got to have someone to talk to, he's my mate'," Mrs Summerfield said.

A couple of days later, she went to stay with her grandparents, Shirley and Stanley Roberts, in nearby Stones Green, where she had her own bedroom where she stayed frequently.

Everything was normal, according to Mrs Roberts, until she left to go to a friend's house on Thursday morning last week and never came home.

Mrs Roberts, 66, said: "At 8.30am she left on her bike with two bags. She said she needed her clothes to go to her friend's house.

"I went upstairs to check if she had left any washing and looked in her bedside cabinet drawer. I noticed all her jewellery and photographs of this boy had gone.

"I looked in the next drawer and found a letter saying 'To The Family'. I just thought, 'oh, no'. I was petrified."

The worried grandmother ripped open the letter from her only granddaughter, in which Shantel said she needed to "sort her head out" and she was leaving to get a new job and start a new life.

Mrs Roberts said: "She is our only granddaughter and she's had everything she could ever have. There is no reason for her to run away at all. It's not like her not to contact any of us. We're very close."

Despite saying in the letter that she would call, the family has heard nothing from Shantel since.

Police believe she left her bike at her aunt's house in a nearby village and caught a bus.

An Essex Policeman spokeswoman said detectives were "very concerned" for Shantel's welfare.

She was last seen in a blue tracksuit which had white stripes down the arm, a pink short-sleeved T-shirt and faded blue jeans.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Mistley police on 01255 221312.

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