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‘It shows the spirit we have in Great Yarmouth’: Praise for local community as Sophie Smith search continues

PUBLISHED: 11:12 01 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:57 01 January 2018

The search for missing Sophie Smith, on the beach at California in north Norfolk. Picture: Ian Burt

The search for missing Sophie Smith, on the beach at California in north Norfolk. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2017

Ongoing attempts to locate missing student Sophie Smith have drawn widespread praise as coastal communities keep up their search efforts.

The search for missing Sophie Smith, on the beach at California in north Norfolk. Picture: Ian Burt The search for missing Sophie Smith, on the beach at California in north Norfolk. Picture: Ian Burt

The 21-year-old disappeared from her home in Avondale Road, Gorleston at 3am on Boxing Day morning, without a mobile phone and wearing only a vest and shorts.

CCTV footage captured her heading towards the seafront a short time later, but there have been no other confirmed sightings since then.

Sophie’s disappearance has prompted a remarkable reaction from neighbours, with hundreds joining the emergency services to help scour the coastline in the hope that she will be found.

Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth, expressed how heartening it has been to see so many people rally around Sophie’s family.

21-year-old Sophie Smith has been missing since leaving her Gorleston home in the early hours of Boxing Day morning. Photo: Norfolk Police 21-year-old Sophie Smith has been missing since leaving her Gorleston home in the early hours of Boxing Day morning. Photo: Norfolk Police

He said: “It has been another amazing example of how communities come together at difficult times, and has shown the spirit we have in Great Yarmouth and the surrounding areas.

“It is hard to imagine the emotions that Sophie’s family are going through and hopefully the support that we are seeing locally can help them.

“The situation is tragic and all my thoughts are with the family at what must be an unbelievably difficult time.”

Saturday (December 30) saw coastal communities come together to carry out two additional searches, both of which were organised by the Find Sophie Smith Facebook group.

At midday, a group gathered at the Britannia Pier in Great Yarmouth before spreading themselves out as widely as possible from the top of the beach down to the shoreline. The group trekked seven miles north through Caister-on-Sea, California, Scratby and Hemsby all the way to Winterton-on-Sea, scanning the sand and dunes extensively along the way.

Whilst the first search was still going on, a second took place at Hopton Holiday Village from 2.30pm.

Meanwhile, in a further gesture of goodwill, a reward of £5,000 has been offered by Jason Smith from Gorleston-based RJS Builders for information which leads to Sophie’s safe return.

The lighting of candles to show support for the search for Sophie is also being encouraged.

Anyone with any information regarding the whereabouts of Sophie Smith should contact Norfolk Police immediately on 101.

Borough council reaction

Great Yarmouth borough councillors for Gorleston have saluted those who have ensured the search for Sophie does not lose steam.

Emma Flaxman-Taylor said: “It’s so touching to realise what a close community we have.

“At difficult times like this, people really do get involved but I’m not surprised at all to see it.

“I’ve got an 18-year-old son and I wouldn’t know what to do if he went missing. It’s a terrible time of year for it happen and my thoughts are with Sophie’s family and friends.”

Kay Grey added: “I’m already so proud of Gorleston, but to see the strength of the community over the last few days has been absolutely fantastic.

“Local people always do their best to help with situations like this and, as usual, they have rallied around the search efforts.

“This must be so devastating for Sophie’s family and I just hope we find her soon.”

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