Police say they have uncovered a possible CCTV sighting of a student who went missing on Boxing Day, but have admitted hopes of finding her safe and well are fading as the search enters its third day.
Sophie Smith left her home in Avondale Road, Gorleston, in nothing but a dark-coloured vest top and light-coloured shorts at around 3am on Boxing Day and has not been seen since.
The University of East Anglia student did not take her mobile phone with her and – other than a possible CCTV image of her heading towards the seafront – there have been no sightings or sign of where she might have gone.
Volunteers have searched beaches in the area and officers from Norfolk Police have conducted house-to-house inquiries, liaised with local hospitals and checked places she was known to have links.
Inspector Will Drummond said there were growing concerns for the 21-year-old’s wellbeing.
“We have diligently searched for Sophie and have investigated a range of scenarios but unfortunately there have been no confirmed sightings or contact since she left her property at 3am,” he said.
“We have a possible CCTV image of Sophie heading towards the seafront but, despite all our efforts, we have found no further trace of her.
“I would like to take this opportunity to ask the public to check their sheds and outbuildings in case Sophie has got disorientated and slept in the nearest place of shelter.
“We are in close contact with Sophie’s family, who are being supported by officers at what is a very difficult time for them.
“However, due to the circumstances in which she left home with minimal clothing, no mobile phone, her mental state and the weather conditions, the hope of finding Sophie safe and well diminishes as time goes on.”
Thousands of people have shared appeals to find her on social media, with more than 15,000 having joined a “Find Sophie Smith” group on Facebook.
In addition to leaving without her phone, the group says Sophie – who is about 5ft 8ins tall with shoulder-length blonde hair – also had no purse and no house or car keys.
She had not been drinking or out with friends at the time of her disappearance and her sudden departure from the property near Great Yarmouth is said to be “very out of character behaviour”.
:: Anyone with information about Sophie’s whereabouts is asked to call Norfolk Police on 101