Missing student Sophie Smith: Possible CCTV sighting

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Media captionSophie Smith vanished from her home in Avondale Road, Gorleston, dressed in just a vest top and shorts

Police have been scouring CCTV in an effort to locate a student who has been missing since Boxing Day, as hope of finding her safe and well "diminishes".

Sophie Smith, 21, left her home in Gorleston, Norfolk, dressed in shorts and a vest top at 03:00 GMT.

CCTV footage may show her heading towards the town's beachfront, police said.

But despite a large search effort, "no further trace" of Sophie has been found.

On Thursday, members of her family and volunteers went out to search a beach near a pier in Great Yarmouth.

Ms Smith's father Martin Knowles said the family was "still praying and hoping Sophie will walk through her mum's door, just so we can put our arms around her and tell her how much we love her".

He described his daughter as "happy-go-lucky, full of life, very popular, liked by a lot of people".

"She's had a bit of hard time recently but I think all youngsters do. It's hard being young," Mr Knowles said.

Image caption Sophie Smith's step-sister Lauren Jayne Shaw led the search in Great Yarmouth

A police helicopter, the coastguard and lifeboats had been involved in searches around the beach at Gorleston on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"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," said Insp Will Drummond.

"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."

Insp Drummond said police officers were in "close contact with Sophie's family".

"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," he said.

Image copyright Norfolk Constabulary
Image caption Police said they were becoming "increasingly concerned" for the University of East Anglia student

Ms Smith's family has led a search around the Britannia pier in Great Yarmouth, and police and the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service were involved in a nine-hour search effort on Tuesday.

The search of the beach continued on Wednesday and has involved members of the Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue.

Manager Paul Webber said his volunteers would return to the town in an effort to find Ms Smith, who vanished from Avondale Road without her mobile phone.

"We methodically searched areas within the town," he said. "We have about 15 members going back to continue the search."

Image caption Members of the Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue service scour Gorleston beach

Norfolk Police said on Wednesday they were becoming "increasingly concerned" for University of East Anglia student Ms Smith and wanted to hear from anyone who may have seen her or knew where she was.

She is described as about 5ft 8in tall (1.72m), of slim build with long blonde hair.

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