Norfolk

Missing Sophie Smith: Police scale back search

Sophie Smith Image copyright Norfolk Constabulary
Image caption Sophie Smith did not take her mobile phone when she vanished from her home close to Gorleston seafront

The search for a missing student who disappeared the day after Christmas is being scaled back after police "exhausted" all lines of inquiry.

Sophie Smith, 21, walked out of her house in Gorleston, Norfolk, wearing just a pair of shorts and vest top at 03:00 GMT.

Norfolk Police, which said it was most likely she went into the sea, confirmed it was scaling back its search.

Volunteers have vowed to continue looking for her.

Ms Smith was spotted on CCTV heading towards the beach shortly after leaving her home in Avondale Road, close to the seafront.

The University of East Anglia student had been treated for severe anxiety and depression before she disappeared.

Image caption The 21-year-old is a student at the University of East Anglia in Norwich

The HM Coastguard said it had assisted police in its search and estimated it had combed more than 34 miles (54km) of coastline.

Ms Smith's father, Martin Knowles, who is separated from his daughter's mother, said he first learned about the operation being scaled down on BBC Radio Norfolk.

"It is disappointing that no officer made contact with me to say it had been scaled down," he said.

Police had said all lines of inquiry had been followed with no result.

A spokeswoman added: "We have been in close contact with Sophie's family since her disappearance who have been updated on every stage of the police investigation.

"In these cases updates are usually provided to a single point of contact who in turn can update the wider family and friends network."

Image copyright Ruddy Muddy
Image caption Norfolk artist Ruddy Muddy created an appeal for the missing student

The police, coastguard, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service and Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue have all assisted in scouring the area.

Scores of volunteers, including Ms Smith's family, have also been involved in the effort and posters have been distributed.

The Find Sophie Smith Facebook group, which has 29,500 members, had organised search parties but put plans on hold for the next few days due to weather concerns.

Air observation charity UK Civil Air Patrol carried out a search flight on New Year's Eve and said it planned to fly as often as it could over the next two weeks or until Ms Smith was found.

A £5,000 reward for her safe return has also been offered by a Gorleston building firm, while Norfolk artist Ruddy Muddy - who draws pictures in dirt on vehicles - has created an appeal poster on a van.

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