Nicola Bulley’s close friend said “the unknown is unbearable” two weeks after she disappeared.
Mrs Bulley’s family gathered today at St Michael’s Church on the banks of the River Wyre in Lancashire, just a few hundred yards from where she disappeared two weeks ago.
A photo of Mrs Bulley smiling with her partner Paul Ansell appeared at the altar.
Heather Gibbons, a family friend who attended the vigil, said: “It’s an agonizing wait, it’s almost hell on top of hell because the unknown is unbearable.”
He described how the locals opened the church doors at 10am. to give people a chance to come… collect their thoughts [and]… to be together’.
“It’s not a vigil because we’ve lost hope, but we’re almost trying to create this moment of hope so that everyone can continue to support each other,” he added.
Crowds of friends gathered for another street appeal holding signs pleading to ‘bring Nikki home’.
They are urging people to come forward with more information, while some want police to investigate a nearby “abandoned house”.
Mrs Bulley, 45, disappeared on January 27 after dropping her two children – aged six and nine – at school and taking their spaniel for a walk.
She was last seen wearing a black coat, black jeans and green ankle boots, with her hair in a ponytail.
A witness said they saw a “clean” red van close to where the mother-of-two disappeared.
Lancashire Police said their current working case is that Ms Bulley fell into the river.
But Mrs Gibbons said the lack of clarity surrounding the 45-year-old’s disappearance had taken a huge toll on her loved ones.
“The family is on the worst rollercoaster ride of their lives, continuing to hope there is a chance we can bring Nikki home safely,” he said.
“They have the same mindset that nothing makes sense. They are just desperately searching for evidence that will determine exactly what has happened.’
On the morning of her disappearance, Mrs Bulley went about her usual routine, dropping her two daughters off at school and taking her springer spaniel Willow for a walk along the river bank.
Her phone – still connected to a call to her job as a mortgage adviser – was found on a bench overlooking the River Wyre, along with the dog running between them.
Since then there has been no sign of her, despite an extensive search of the river and surrounding countryside by police.
They have since changed from the St Michael’s clearing to about 10 miles downstream where the river meets the sea at Morecambe Bay.
Police boats have been spotted cruising up and down local waterways.
Lancashire Police believe Ms Bulley fell into the water and are ruling out foul play, although they are still keeping an “open mind” as to what happened.
Members of the public are being asked to come forward with any information that could assist the investigation.
‘[Police] encourage everyone to keep an open mind, word has been that they don’t have their blinders on,” Ms Gibbons added.
“We are optimistic, we keep hoping.”