POLICE are continuing to search mine shafts in attempt to solve the mysterious disappearance of a former miner.

Officers have been carrying out an extensive search for Edward Donnelly, who went missing three years ago.

On Monday, they began searching around his home village of Sacriston, near Chester-le-Street, using specialist teams and dog units.

Mr Donnelly, who lived with his sister Frances Donnelly, in Fynway, was 53 when he vanished in March 2002.

His other sister, Kathleen Gault, 70, also of Fynway, told The Northern Echo that she still prayed he would be found alive.

But the man leading the inquiry, Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Watson, said it was becoming increasingly unlikely.

He said: "We are currently systematically making sure mine shafts in the area are still secure in case he stumbled into one.

"We estimate this will take a few days."

Anyone with information is asked to contact the police on 0845 6060365, or Crimestoppers on 0800 55111.