Hundreds pay tribute to missing Northumberland woman

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Hundreds of people today joined the family of missing Northumberland woman Sally Allan to lay floral tributes at the spot where she was last seen.

More than 200 well-wishers joined Gordon Allan and his children David, Clive and Claire for the poignant ceremony next to the Swing Bridge on Newcastle Quayside.

Family, friends and supporters lay floral tributes to Sally Allan.

Family, friends and supporters lay floral tributes to Sally Allan.

Sally, 59-, left her home in Errington Road, Darras Hall, Ponteland, sometime before 3am on Boxing Day. CCTV footage of the last confirmed sighting of her shows her walking alongside the River Tyne near the Copthorne Hotel at around 6am the same day. The camera loses sight of her as she approaches the Swing Bridge.

It was to the same spot that the family gathered this morning to lay flowers and hold a minute's silence for Sally. Earlier this week, they admitted they had to accept that she was not going to be found alive.
Gordon thanked all those who had turned out on a cold, grey January morning and praised the support the family has received, saying it has given them the strength to carry on.

He said: "I think today is about us coming to meet the community to say thank-you for the wave of sympathy and support that they've given us over the last two weeks.

"Some of the messages, some of the comments, some of the memories of Sally, they've made us cry, they've made us laugh, but I guess most of all they've made us feel proud of our mum and our wife and it has meant so much and it has given us strength to carry on.

Sally Allan

Sally Allan

"I've been waking up every morning and going on the iPad and looking at the comments on the Just Giving page. I think 800 people have now actually donated to the fund and I've read every comment. It has touched my heart and given me a lot of strength to carry on."

Gordon said that the family was not aware Sally had a mental health problem but that she was a worrier. He said he hoped the family's tragedy could help people understand their own mental health better,

"What's also important about the messages people are leaving, both on the Just Giving page and on the website, is just that people do feel that mental health is something that as a society we have to do more to promote, that there isn't enough awareness about mental health. As individuals we probably didn't understand it as well as we should," he said.

"I've been looking at websites, trying to understand what's happening. I think there's some pages I've looked at that had I looked at them two months ago perhaps I might have been able to help Sally.

Some of the flowers at the Swing Bridge.

Some of the flowers at the Swing Bridge.

"We didn't know she had a mental health problem but she was a worrier , she suffer a little bit from low self-esteem on occasions and she struggled at times to deal with new technology and that perhaps reinforced her low self-esteem.

"If I'd read some of those in more detail perhaps I would have just thought maybe I do need to get her to see someone or talk to someone about it, perhaps it has reached a level where she does need some support.

"So if just one family or one person could, as a result of our tragedy, understands their own mental health better or helps somebody then it will have been worthwhile.

"So today is really about celebrating Sally's life, celebrate what she was as a person, thanking the community for everything they've done. I think on the 27th the whole of Tyneside was out looking for her. Had she been alive at that point, I think we would have found her.

"Today is going to be a hard day but it's also a nice day as well and I would just like to thank the Facebook group North East happening for organising today and making it possible. Looking around the Copthorne now and see so many people you can't help but be moved and it will give us the support to carry on.

"We do still have a lot to live for and with friends and family and supporters like this then that proves it."

A special online fund-raising page has been set up in Sally's honour, to support and raise awareness of mental health through national UK charity Mind. In an incredible show of support, people have helped to raise more than £13,000, since the page was created at the start of the week. To donate to the cause, click here
Stuart Dexter, chief executive of Tyneside and Northumberland Mind, told the crowd that mental health problems are incredibly common.

He said: "I have been struck by the kindness and generosity of people who have donated to Mind's Just Giving page and also that the family have thought to help others at this very difficult time."

Have of the money raised will go to Mind nationally, to help with raising awareness and campaigning, and the rest will stay locally with Tyneside and Northumberland Mind, which will be talking to the family about the best use of the money.