A heartbroken mum today thanked the public for their support when her worst fears were realised after her missing son was found dead.
For the past eight weeks Catherine Leach has been walking the cliff tops of Marsden and Whitburn in a desperate bid to find her only son.
Daniel Smith, disappeared on Friday March 20 - last seen in the Marsden area - leaving his family and friends distraught.
But while, well-wishers urged his mum not to give up hope of finding the 25-year-old alive, Catherine says in her heart she knew he was gone.
“We were so close, if I didn’t hear from him 10 times a day, then there was something wrong.
“I just knew, I just knew from the moment I phoned the police to report him missing, in my heart, I knew he was dead.
“I just knew, I just knew from the moment I phoned the police to report him missing, in my heart, I knew he was dead.”Catherine Leach
“The hardest part was not knowing what happened to him, knowing he was out there alone - as a mother that killed me inside.”
Since the day Danny, who lived at Villette Path, Hendon, Sunderland, vanished, his heartbroken mum has spent almost every waking moment scouring the cliff tops, searching bushes and caves nearby in a desperate bid to find her boy. The 45-year-old, from Livingston Place, South Shields, also called on the help of local fishermen and boat keepers by asking them to look out for her son while they were at sea.
And on Friday, she received the phone call she had anxiously been waiting for from police - a body had been found in the sea just off the Sunderland coast.
“I had just got home after walking the cliffs again looking for him when the police phoned - I just knew it was him,” said Catherine.
“I knew he was dead as he wouldn’t put his family through this.
“For the past three weeks I have been planning his funeral as I knew this day was coming.”
Each day she had mentally prepared herself for the inevitable but she says nothing could have prepared her for having to carry out the harrowing task of breaking the news to his two sisters.
“Telling his sisters, Kirsty and Olivia, was the most horrendous thing I have ever had to do.
“His older sister Kirsty is six months pregnant - she just did not want to believe it.
“They came over to mine and his girlfriend and I sat on the sofa rocking backwards and forwards, I thought my head was going to explode.
“People are probably wondering why I am able to publicly talk to the paper even though I have lost my son - but I have had so much support from the public since Daniel went missing and the help and messages I have received has really given me the strength to carry on, I felt it was only right to personally thank everyone who has been there for me and my family.”
Daniel was discovered at 1.20pm, yesterday, by the crew of a fishing boat, two miles south east of Sunderland harbour.
His body was transported back to the shore where officers from Northumbria Police were waiting.
His family, now have the heartbreaking task of organising his funeral.