Deborah Steel Ely murder: Family carrying 'heavy burden'

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Media captionPub landlady Deborah Steel went missing 17 years ago

The half-sister of a pub landlady, who is believed to have been murdered, said she knew after her disappearance in 1997 "she was no longer of this world".

Deborah Steel, 37, from the Royal Standard in Ely, Cambridgeshire, was last seen in the early hours of 28 December. Her body has not been found.

Gini Secker, 47, from Nottingham, said the unsolved case was a "heavy burden" for the family.

A man, 70, arrested earlier this month on suspicion of murder was bailed.

Image caption Earlier this month excavations took place at a property in Ely which police said was "linked to the disappearance"

Mrs Secker, who lived in Ely at the time her half-sister disappeared, said: "Debbie went missing 17 years ago under strange and inexplicable circumstances.

"I knew in my heart of hearts after the first few weeks of her disappearance that she was no longer of this world, as she had made no contact with either myself or other family members."

'Lay to rest'

Ms Steel's disappearance was recently reclassified from a long-term missing person to a murder inquiry by Cambridgeshire Police.

Mrs Secker said reopening the case had given the family hope, but said it was "so very sad" that their father had died without knowing what had happened to her half-sister, Ms Steel.

Image copyright Cambridgeshire Police
Image caption Deborah Steel was landlady of the Royal Standard pub in Ely when she disappeared 17 years ago

"I plead to anyone who knows anything, however minor it may seem to them, to now come forward," she said.

"We are convinced that someone knows about her fate. It has been a heavy burden to carry all these years and all we wish for is the answers so we can lay Debbie to rest at last."

A garden and a property in the Longfields area of Ely, "linked to the disappearance", were searched by officers over the weekend of 6 and 7 September .

"A number of items of interest were seized from the house," a spokesman said.

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