Mystery over mother who disappeared from party oveyr 2

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The Independent Online
A 39-year-old mother of two was still missing yesterday after vanishing from a restaurant during a family birthday celebration, writes Steve Boggan.

Sharon Hammond has not been seen since she excused herself in between her starter and main course and asked a waitress for directions to the women's lavatory at Blubecker's restaurant in Chobham, Surrey.

Relatives raised the alarm within 20 minutes of her failure to return, but all that remained was a shoe on a cricket ground behind the restaurant. A family member has since identified the black, high-heeled stiletto as hers.

Police will today launch an inch-by-inch search of the village in a bid to find out what happened to her. Attempts to use a helicopter with heat- seeking equipment have so far been stymied by poor conditions.

Mrs Hammond, from Fleet, Hampshire, had travelled to the restaurant last Friday in her own car to meet her husband, Colin, who arrived separately from work. She joined the party of 40 friends and relatives and sat down to eat at about 8pm.

It is understood she had had only one drink before her disappearance and had been in good spirits. One guest at the party said she simply asked for directions to the ladies and never returned.

Detective Chief Inspector Keith Rogers of Surrey police said there were growing concerns for her safety because of the weather conditions on the night she vanished.

"It was -5C, the coldest night we have had so far, and Mrs Hammond was wearing only a short black dress and a bolero jacket," he said. "That would be ideal for a party, but not for outdoors in such cold weather." He said police had no clear evidence that foul play was involved and he was keeping an open mind. "Thousands of people go missing every year, some of them in very strange circumstances, so we are not jumping to conclusions."

However, officers will be deployed in a systematic search today "starting from the back door of the restaurant and fanning out", said Mr Rogers.

An incident room was set up near the scene yesterday. Officers have been given one reported sighting of a woman wearing similar clothes to Mrs Hammond in Chobham on Friday night.

Last night, Mr Hammond said he remained hopeful his wife was safe. "I am trying to maintain a positive frame of mind," he said. "I just have to keep thinking positively."