Huge search after mother of drowned student goes missing
Mrs Wilcox, 49, went missing from the family home in Wickersley, Rotherham, some time between 10.30pm on Monday and 6am on Tuesday. Her distraught family – husband Richard Wilcox and children Alissa and Oliver – have not heard from her since.
Last night, officers with dogs and the police helicopter were searching an area surrounding remote ponds near Whiston, Rotherham, where a woman matching Mrs Wilcox's description was seen on Tuesday morning.
Officers were also handing out leaflets and posters not only in Rotherham but also at the spot on the River Aire where the body of Mrs Wilcox's son, Matthew, was found in March.
Superintendent Andy Parker, who is leading the search for the bereaved mother, said: "Mrs Wilcox, and every other member of her family, has suffered quite a devastating shock and is in a period of prolonged grief after the tragic death of Matthew.
"We are not yet at that stage where we have given up hope. She may have taken up refuge with friends or clients – as a chiropodist, she knows an awful lot of people and it could well be that she is safe and well yet not contacting us.
"If she's seen any of these media appeals I'd like to ask her to let us know she is safe and well.
"We are making no assumptions at this stage. We do believe it is unusual for her to do this, and her family are clearly wanting her to get in touch."
Matthew, a 19-year-old geography student, was last seen early on Friday February 26 after being escorted out of the Mission nightclub in Lower Briggate in Leeds by door staff. His body was pulled from the River Aire a week later.
CCTV cameras showed the teenager close to the riverbank after leaving Mission.
Supt Parker said that a large group of people from Wickersley were set to join forces with the police last night to help with the search for Mrs Wilcox.
"Police will be searching until it gets dark and, as soon as it gets light, will resume the search again.
"We are well linked up with West Yorkshire Police, who will be working around the River Aire with the community, letting people know the lady is missing and may have come to that area."
Mrs Wilcox is 5ft 6in tall and slim build, with shoulder-length brown hair. It is not known what she was wearing at the time of her disappearance, but two possible sightings of her on Tuesday morning suggest she may be wearing a blue or green waterproof jacket and jeans.
Supt Parker said: "The initial reports were that she left home wearing only a nightie, with no phone and no bank cards.
"However, a woman matching her description was first seen at about 9.30am at Pinchmill Farm on Pinchmill Lane in Whiston, near a place called Slacks Pond.
"The same woman was then spotted near to the same point about 10 minutes later, walking along Sandy Flat Lane, a path leading away from the ponds towards the Quarry Field Lane Estate. That's the last suspected sighting that we have."
A Facebook group has been set up by Mrs Wilcox's children and thousands of members have already joined up. Anyone with information on Mrs Wilcox's whereabouts is asked to call police on 01709 832260.