Christmas 'a living hell' for family of Helena McElhennon who went missing a month ago
The heartbroken sister of a woman who has been missing for over a month has said Christmas has been "a living hell" for her family.
Helena McElhennon, a 42-year-old mother-of-four from Draperstown, was last seen over four weeks ago in Londonderry.
Her black Mitsubishi Outlander was found parked near a layby at the city end of the Foyle Bridge in Derry.
Despite daily searches and numerous police appeals she has not been found.
Helena's four children - two girls and two boys - are heartbroken, her sister Teresa Kidd said.
Teresa said Santa still came to Helena's young children but it was an extremely quiet day which finished with them praying to their mum, asking if she would come home.
During a "surreal Christmas Day", Teresa said that her entire family just wished Helena would "walk through the door and that would make everything okay".
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"Helena has been away from home now for four weeks," she said.
"It was the strangest Christmas ever.
"I think we were all secretly hoping that she would just walk through the door on Christmas Day and that would make everything okay again. But unfortunately that was not the case.
"It was a surreal, very quiet Christmas for us.
"Helena has a one-year-old, a five-year-old, a nine-year-old and a 10-year-old. The three older children have all been told, so they're all aware of what is going on.
"The kids got through Christmas okay, thankfully, and were happy with all their Santa toys. They were just very, very quiet and things were very low-key this year because of it all."
Teresa said they tried to keep things normal for them as much as possible.
She added: "Santa still had to come. They were excited for Santa and seemed happy with what they got but they are not saying an awful lot, they just pray every night to mammy that she comes home. Our mum was with me for dinner, it was just very quiet.
"It was another day of waiting. This limbo is just living hell. It's torture, this waiting and waiting, wondering where she is. We feel defeatist but we have this little glimmer of hope, that we hope we're wrong and she's not in the water."
Teresa said Helena's youngsters are wondering where their mother is and when she is coming home.
"The children are asking when their mammy is coming home," she said.
"But we don't really delve too much into it, we don't know what to say. You want them to talk, but you don't want them to talk and ask questions at the same time. It's difficult."
She said Christmas was the toughest time for the heartbroken family, who have to "put on a face" for the younger members.
"One minute you're laughing with the young ones and the next you have to go out into the hall and cry your eyes out. You are just putting on a front, really.
"There have been no sightings at all of Helena, unfortunately. The search teams were out on Christmas Day and on Boxing Day looking for her.
"They just continue searching on for her. We are so grateful to them for their time and efforts to help bring Helena home. There has been a JustGiving page set up to raise money for the search teams, which has reached over £3,000. I am still clinging to hope. Until the police tell me that she's gone, then I won't really believe it.
"This darkness and despair that we have felt this last four weeks, she must have been feeling. There is just a cloud of darkness.
"We hope to have a definitive answer. If she is gone, then we just want to bring her home and bury her."
Helena went missing on Sunday, November 24. Over the last month police have conducted searches and reconstructed her last known movements.
At the time PSNI Sergeant Adrian Brogan appealed for the public's help in finding the missing mum.
"I want anyone who was in the area on November 24, either driving or walking, around 11am to think back about who you remember seeing," he said.
"Do you think you may have seen Helena, or saw her driving in the area? Perhaps you've captured what may have been her vehicle on your dash-cam.
"If you have any information, no matter how small, please come and tell us either at our mobile station on the Foyle Bridge this morning, or by calling us on 101 and quoting reference number 771 of 24/11/19."