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Inquest into death of Exeter woman whose disappearance sparked wide-spread search held this week

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: May 07, 2014

Sylvia Russell, left, and Joan

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THE inquest into the death of an elderly woman whose disappearance sparked a lengthy search across Exeter will be held on Friday.

Police divers discovered Joan Russell, 78, in the weir near the Port Royal pub, almost a week after she went missing from her St Thomas home in the middle of the night.

During the searches, that took place in November last year, police urged residents to look in gardens and sheds as concern grew daily for Joan, who was described as vulnerable.

Her family are hoping for answers surrounding her disappearance and death when her inquest is held in Barnstaple on Friday morning.

Her twin Sylvia Russell paid tribute to Joan, who she had lived with for all but five years of their lives, after her body had been found.

She said: "Joan was my beloved sister but I am relieved that at least she has been found.

“I just want to thank everyone for all their help in trying to find her.”

Sylvia said she last saw her sister when she kissed her goodnight at the home they shared at Emmanuel Close, St Thomas. When she woke up the next morning Joan had disappeared.

“My sister was just a wonderful, kind-hearted person who was good to everyone,” she added. “She was very charitable and would make a lot of donations without giving her name. She was just a good person.

“We lived together for all but five years of our lives so it doesn’t get much closer than that. As a twin you always have a special bond.

“I kissed her goodnight and said god bless – like I always do. There was no hint of anything being wrong but that was the last I saw of her. I got up in the morning looked in the bedroom and she was gone.

“She was suffering from nerves and I feared she may have gone in the river. She had been very down lately."

The inquest into Joan's death is due to begin at Barnstaple Magistrates Court at 11am.

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