Sophie Smith is still in people's hearts and minds one month after she went missing
PUBLISHED: 17:56 25 January 2018 | UPDATED: 18:19 25 January 2018
With hundreds of posters dotted around Gorleston and beyond missing Sophie Smith is still very much in the hearts and minds of the seaside community.
Dog walkers purse their lips and nod sadly at the mention of her name and business owners and residents alike discuss the missing 21-year-old, who was last seen in the early hours of Boxing Day heading to the town’s seafront– a month ago on Friday.
And that is the abiding feeling in Gorleston and further afield - Sophie is always on our minds and close to our hearts.
That sentiment has been shown in posters being put up, large scale volunteer searches and a Find Sophie Smith Facebook page being set up
Among the businesses and shops that has a missing poster is estate agents Darby & Liffen of Bells Road, which cuts across Avondale Road where Sophie’s family home is.
When asked why he had put a poster up managing director Owen Darby said: “We are a family business and we are very much part of the community.
“She is really in the thoughts of people everywhere and we feel so sorry and sad for the whole of Sophie’s family.”
He added that as long as there was a “glimmer of hope” the poster would remain in its position.
A 29-year-old female resident of Bells Road has had a poster in her front room window for the last three weeks as Sophie’s disappearance had “hit home” for her.
Karolyn Hubbard, manager of Margo’s Lounge in Bells Road, said Sophie was always in her thoughts when she walked her dogs on the beach
Rev Brian Hall, rector at St Andrew’s Church in Gorleston, said the element of the unknown made it difficult to know what to do and extra hard for the family.
He said: “We had a prayer vigil when we first found out and continue to pray at our Sunday services.
“I have made contact with the family and think they want to keep it all within themselves.
“But there has been a big public response to the search, and everywhere you go down the High Street or in the supermarkets there are still posters everywhere.
“It has made a deep impression on the Gorleston community and for me my prayer is that God would bind up the broken hearted.”
Paddy Lee is a coxswain at Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Lifeboat Station, which was called out six times in the space of the first week Sophie went missing, spending an estimated 15 hours out searching.
He said: “It is very sombre when you know you are looking for a person, but we just try to do our very best to find them,
“Whenever we have been out we always keep our eyes open. I think about her whenever we are out on exercises. We are always searching whenever we are out.
“The scale of the searches were all down to the community spirit – nobody wants to see a young lady missing.”
The borough councillors for Gorleston have praised the strong community spirit in the town and how people have not given up hope.
Emma Flaxman-Taylor said: “I walk my dog along the beach and they are still people out there searching. It is nice to see how close the community is here. People will be out next week and next month and next year if need be helping with the search.”
Kay Grey said: “I think the community response has been absolutely fantastic in showing its support for Sophie’s family.”
The Find Sophie Smith Facebook page had as of Thursday morning 31,190 members who post messages of support, give search updates and also highlight other missing people across the country.
Insp Will Drummond, of Great Yarmouth police, is in close contact with Sophie’s family and said police would act on information supplied concerning Sophie’s whereabouts.
The father of Sophie Smith has thanked the community and emergency services for their support and extensive searches for his daughter.
As Martin Knowles, 47, and from Gorleston, issued his heartfelt thanks he also said he holds out a glimmer of hope that his daughter will come home.
Mr Knowles said: “The whole community has been phenomenal. When the chips are down everybody pulls together here. It is a very close knit community. I want to thank everyone for their support and what they have done.”
He added as there was “no hard evidence” about what happened to his daughter he still held a “glimmer of hope” for her.
He said his daughter had a heart of gold and was very family orientated and was bubbly and the life and soul of the party.
Sophie’s aunt Rebecca Russell, 41, also wanted to thank everyone for their messages of support and help in searching for her.