Mother of missing Zoe protests innocence after release

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The mother of the missing Wiltshire schoolgirl Zoe Evans yesterday said she still desperately hopes her daughter will be found alive.

Paula Evans, 28, speaking through her lawyer, vehemently denied she had anything to do with the disappearance of the nine-year-old. The mother of two was said to be "completely drained and exhausted" and remained at a secret address after being released from police custody without charge. She and Zoe's stepfather, Miles Evans, 23, an Army driver, were held for questioning for 60 hours. Police fear the girl is dead.

Richard Griffiths, the solicitor who represented her during the questioning, said yesterday: "Mrs Evans emphatically says she is innocent of any involvement in the disappearance of Zoe. She still hopes against hope that Zoe is alive somewhere and will turn up. She is as anxious to help as anyone, even when she herself does not know the answers ... She understands the police have a duty to discover what has happened. But she has made it absolutely clear she has given all the help she can."