Police searching for a missing university student have found CCTV which they believe shows her running away from her Norfolk home towards the beach.
Sophie Smith was last seen at 3am on Boxing Day and is believed to have left the house dressed only in a shorts and a vest, without her mobile phone.
Norfolk Police’s Inspector Will Drummond, who is leading the search, revealed: “Sophie had been suffering from severe anxiety and depression which she was receiving treatment for and we suspect that may have been a trigger for her actions that evening.
“The CCTV image shows a person we believe and the family believe is Sophie and it shows her wearing very little clothing - in a vest and shorts and it shows her running towards the beach in Gorleston.
“Looking at the information it does therefore point to the likelihood that she may have gone into the sea deliberately.”
He added: “Our enquiries have revealed there’s been a degree of pre-planning to her disappearance and this, combined with her mental state and comments made the previous day, suggest the most likely scenario is that she has gone into the sea.”
Norfolk Constabulary will be carrying out sea and coastline searches on Friday, the force confirmed, having sought expert analysis of tidal movement.
The 21-year-old, a biomedicine second year student at East Anglia University, is described as being white, about 5ft 8in tall, of a slim build with shoulder length blonde hair. She has not accessed her bank or social media accounts since disappearing.
A spokesman for the university said: “All our thoughts are with Sophie, her family and her friends. Our paramount concern is for Sophie’s safety and welfare and we would urge anyone who may have information about her whereabouts to contact Norfolk Police on 101.”
An online group called Find Sophie Smith has amassed nearly 16,000 members, with her mother Lynn Shaw revealing: “We have been overwhelmed by the Facebook campaign and messages of help, love and support and thank each and every one of you from the bottom of our hearts.”
In comments reported by The Sun, Sophie’s father Martin Knowles said: “We have not given up hope. We are still praying and hoping that Sophie will walk through her mum’s door and just come home so we can put our arms around her and tell her how much we love her.
“What has happened is heartbreaking for us all.”
Her mother wrote on Facebook: “Sophie you are my world, why didn’t I protect you? Please come home, please just walk through the door.”
Anyone with information should contact Norfolk Police immediately on 101.
Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41.
Maytree is a sanctuary for the suicidal in north London in a non-medical setting. For help or to enquire about a stay, call 020 7263 7070.