THE devastated boyfriend of missing Leanne Chambers last night spoke of his fears that his depressed partner would not be found.
Steven Crossland was clinging on to the last grains of hope as he faced another night at home without his beloved girlfriend.
Leanne, 30, has not been seen since she slipped out of the house she shares with Steven, in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, late on Tuesday night.
The sales-coordinator, who has battled depression for a number of years had taken a turn for the worse after receiving a letter telling her she must be assessed by a doctor to see if she is fit to return to work.
But when Steven went to bed on Tuesday night leaving Leanne watching television with a bottle of wine, he had no idea it could be the last time he saw his partner.
Yet, the 35-year-old is now fearing the worst after Leanne’s coat and purse were found in the River Wear, and her mobile phone was discovered discarded at Chester-le-Street’s Riverside Park.
“I can’t help thinking the worst now, because no one has seen her,” he said. “I’m absolutely devastated but I’m just hoping and praying she is OK. I’m still holding on to some hope because I have got to, but I am fearing the worst.”
Steven met Leanne two-and-a-half years ago at car parts supplier Calsonic Kansei, in Washington, where they both work.
But as the couple grew closer Steven soon realised that behind her witty, bubbly, fun-loving exterior, Leanne was fighting a private battle with depression. In recent weeks she had been off work and on medication for her condition. She had been due to have a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday to assess whether or not she was fit to return to work.
But on Tuesday she received a message from her employers, which panicked her into thinking she might have to go back before she was ready.
“She was panicking because she felt she wasn’t fit for work,” Steven explained. “When I came in from work on Tuesday night she was just sitting on the chair in the same clothes as the night before.”
Steven persuaded his girlfriend to go out with him to the Wicked Gate pub for something to eat. But Leanne was withdrawn and distracted all evening.
“She seemed miles away, she wasn’t on this planet,” he said. “She said she was sorry and that she was worried about her doctors appointment. But I just said; ‘Don’t worry they can’t make you go back to work’.”
The couple finished their meals and bought a bottle of wine before walking home arm-in-arm. On arriving back, Steven decided to have an early night because he had work in the morning.
His partner’s response seemed insignificant at the time, but he is now haunted by her words. “She said; ‘It will not be an early night for me”, he said.
But when he was woken by the couple’s cat Chloe, at 12.30am, he found the wine bottle empty, the television on, and Leanne gone. Steven jumped in his car and began driving around the town looking for her.
“I was panicking a bit but I thought maybe she had gone to buy some more beer,” he said. “I drove all over, and then at 1.30am I decided to call the police.”
Loved ones of Leanne, who attempted to take an overdose two weeks ago, are now fearing the worst.
But Steven still hopes she will be found safe. “I just want her to get in touch with somebody even if it isn’t me,” he said.
“Leanne is funny, intelligent and bubbly. She wouldn’t believe how loved she is. I’m just hoping there’s somebody out there who knows what’s happened to her.”
Page 3 - Massive search operation launched by police divers >>
Massive search operation launched by police divers
A HUGE search operation was launched for Leanne involving police, firefighters and members of the Teesdale and Weardale Search and Rescue Team.
Investigations revealed that Leanne was caught on CCTV walking through the town. She went to a pub where she had a glass of wine and bought a bottle.
And she was last seen heading into Riverside Park.
Police divers spent Thursday searching the river, finding no trace of Leanne.
But members of the rescue team found her coat and purse in the water, and her mobile phone was found on a park bench. The search was called off late on Thursday night and the divers will not return until Monday.
Leanne is described as 5ft 7ins tall, of slim to medium build with dark brown hair in a bob. When she went missing she was wearing a grey hooded top, black leggings and dark Ugg boots.
Det Sgt Amanda Henderson, of Durham police, said: "We are anxious to speak to anyone who was in or around the park from 10.30pm on Tuesday."
Anyone with any information should call Northumbria Police on 0345 60 60 365.