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Search continues for missing Belfast teacher Catherine Johnston

Police made specific appeals for family and taxi driver to come forward

By David Young

The search for missing east Belfast woman Catherine Johnston is continuing - but for her worried family there is still no news of her whereabouts.

The Hazelwood Integrated College teacher was last seen on Tuesday.

When her white Seat Leon car was later discovered at Ballintoy harbour on the north Antrim coast, the find sparked a massive air and sea search operation involving the PSNI and the coastguard.

A rescue helicopter from Prestwick in Scotland was deployed in the search, as well as hi-tech sonar locating equipment.

Three days of intensive searching have so far failed to find any trace of the 39-year-old.

The search operation is concentrated around the Dunseverick Castle and Carrick-a-rede areas.

On Saturday police re-appealed for witnesses to come forward.

Mrs Johnston, who teaches at Hazelwood College and is also head of year 10 pupils, was described as "a shining star" by Hazelwood Integrated College principal Kathleen O'Hare.

Ms O'Hare said that pupils at the school were informed of her disappearance at Wednesday morning's assembly, during which prayers were said for her.

"She was head of year 12 last year and they got the best results ever in our 30 years of existence, so that's how shining a star she is," said Ms O'Hare.

The college's Facebook page said: "All of the Hazelwood community are hoping & praying for the safe return of our dear friend."

Mrs Johnston, who had been off work ill in the last few days, had moved to east Belfast from her previous home in Dundonald.

In a statement Sergeant David Armour said: “A white Seat Leon car, which we believe Catherine was driving, was found in the Ballintoy Harbour area on Wednesday 14 December though we believe that it may have been there from the day before. Extensive searches in Ballintoy and the surrounding area have been ongoing since Wednesday.

“We have information that a Vauxhall estate car, possibly an Insignia or an Astra, was parked at Ballintoy on Tuesday afternoon. The car is described as being duck-egg blue in colour.

"A man, woman and three children were using the car and it is thought that the adults took photographs while they were there. I would ask these people to please contact police so that we can check the photographs and see if they can assist us with the investigation.

“It is also thought that a white Transit van with a yellow taxi sign on the roof was parked in Ballintoy later that afternoon. Again I would ask the driver to please get in touch with police, quoting reference number 889 of 13/12/16. Thank you.”

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