Belfast Telegraph

'Everyone is searching, they're pulling together to bring Helena home': missing woman's sister refuses to give up hope

Helena McElhennon
Helena McElhennon
The two sisters together
Helena's sister Teresa
Search teams looking for the missing woman
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

The family of a missing Draperstown woman are "holding on to a glimmer of hope" that they will find her and won't give up until they bring her home.

Helena McElhennon was last seen almost two weeks ago in Londonderry.

She parked her black Mitsubishi Outlander in a lay-by on the city end of the Foyle Bridge before disappearing.

Despite daily searches and police appeals, no trace of her has been found.

The 42-year-old is a mother of four children, the youngest of whom is just one.

Helena's younger sister, Teresa, said she and the rest of the family were heartbroken.

"Helena is missing now for almost two weeks," she said.

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"We are still searching, mainly around Derry with different agencies such as Foyle Search and Rescue and other teams and volunteers.

"Everyone is pulling together to help bring Helena home."

Teresa said the family were coping as best they could by focusing on the searches and distributing a photograph of Helena in the hope it would spark a memory and lead to her being found.

"We are just distressed," she added. "We just want her home, whatever the outcome. It's that closure. You have that dread, but you also have that glimmer of hope that you just hold on to.

"My mother, Mary, said the other day that she would just love to see her sitting at her kitchen table. We are just hoping beyond hope.

"Whatever the outcome, we just want her home, so that we know. It's the not knowing that is mental torture."

Teresa explained that Helena's older children were distraught.

"She has a one-year-old, a five-year-old, a nine-year-old and a 10-year-old," she said.

"The three older children have all been told, so they're all aware of what is going on.

"They just want their mammy home... they're worried.

"One of them said, 'All I want for Christmas is for mammy to come home'. It was devastating to hear.

"Obviously, the children are very worried. We are trying to keep them in a routine but have been updating them on what has been happening.

"We have told them the truth and the police have been working with them. It's Christmas and there are Christmas plays coming up. They want her there.

"At their school next Sunday they hold a big breakfast and Santa is coming to it.

"That will be something for the kids and the school, but it will also be hard because they will see all their friends with their mummies and will be wondering where their mummy is."

Teresa said December was not a good month for her family because with it came the anniversary of her baby daughter's death, a child Helena was godmother to.

"My first little daughter was stillborn in December," she explained. "It is her anniversary on Sunday. Helena is her godmother and she was my rock at that awful time.

"There is a Mass for her on Sunday night... that will be tough. My little girl's name was Leonie and she would have been six years old on Sunday.

"After I lost her, Helena organised a really lovely night in a hall at the back of the school in aid of a local baby loss charity.

"It was a pampering night and she raised more than £2,000. It was a brilliant event.

"She did everything. She was amazing at getting businesses to donate and she organised everything."

Helena previously worked as an office manager but had more recently been staying at home to look after her children.

"Helena was the smartest out of the five of us," Teresa said. She used to walk around with a biology textbook under her nose. She was so studious, so smart and so intelligent. She was just a practical person.

"She was always stuck in the middle of organising something, be it a birthday party or baby shower or a day out to visit our sister in Belfast. She would go way over the top, but she just wanted everything to be perfect - that was just her."

Teresa described Helena as a great sister and mother who is loved by all who know her.

"She used to ring me on Saturday and ask me to go places with her, little shopping trips and the like," she said.

"There was a Ronan Keating concert giveaway on Facebook. Unknown to me, she asked all my family and friends to vote for me to win and go to Manchester before the birth of my rainbow baby in 2016.

"My husband and I won and he gave Helena my ticket - she was overjoyed.

"We got a girlie break away when I was 33 weeks' pregnant. We met Ronan Keating and went to his concert, went shopping, had dinner and a really lovely time. That was what she was like, always thinking of others.

"She was the best mummy. She would have taken her children everywhere.

"If there was a child's birthday party, she would have been on the bouncy castle with them.

"They would be telling her to get off... she was such good fun.

"She was really involved in the community and in the school and doing as much as she could for good."

Teresa admitted Helena had been struggling with her mental health.

"She did suffer with depression and it just all got a bit much for her," she said.

"She was seeking help, but she just got a bit hopeless.

"I know that there are those who say that she is probably in the river, but I don't know.

"There is no evidence that she is in it and none that she is not. People will speculate and they will judge her, but that's their prerogative.

"We will keep on going until we get her home. We will not give up until we get an answer and get her home.

"Christmas is the furthest from our minds at the moment, but then we have to keep Christmas for the children.

"They are oblivious to a certain extent, but Santa is coming and they still have all that excitement that we wouldn't take away from them. We will survive it for their sakes and we'll put on what we can for them, so they don't suffer.

"We are not giving up. We have a glimmer of hope. We will get her, no matter what.

"They need their mammy and we need our sister, our wife, our daughter and our friend back. We need her home."

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