THE search for missing Minchinhampton woman Hazel Denham, 71, and her poodle/Yorkshire terrier cross Bertie bridged four days but brought out the very best from the community.

Hazel and Bertie were finally found by Sara Wilce and her two-and-a-half-year-old Westie called Dougal near Toadsmoor Woods at 9.20am on Friday.

The 71-year-old Vosper Croft resident, who has mild dementia, had last been seen at 1.20pm last Tuesday heading for Minchinhampton Common to walk Bertie.

She was reported missing by her husband Richard, 85, at 5.17pm after she failed to home.

Her hero rescuer Sara from Brimscombe told the SNJ: “I’d read that she used to walk up to three miles each day with her dog so it wasn’t beyond reason that she could make this far.

“Dougal spotted Bertie while we walking in Toadsmoor Woods, a good way from but parallel to Toadsmoor Road.

“I almost carried on walking, thinking that it could be someone else, but I thought we ought to go and look we had to zigzag down the hill and I could see her hair was red.

“She was just sitting down on a very steep bank, there’s no way she would have been able to get down without help, especially after all that time.

“I asked her ‘are you Hazel?’ and she said ‘yes, I’ve been here for three days’.

“She was surrounded by trees so you really wouldn’t have been able to see her unless you were looking.

“I told her ‘the police have been looking for you Hazel’ and she was shocked and said ‘really?’

“I had no signal on my phone and I didn’t want to leave Hazel alone after I had found her, I tried to walk her off the hill but there was no way I was going to manage.

“She held on to Dougal for me so I could I walk to the road and still didn’t have signal so I stood in the road and waved my arms around and a woman pulled over, and I just said to her ‘I’ve found Hazel! Can I borrow your phone?’

“I was so delighted, I couldn’t believe it was really happening.

“The police came so quickly and I was so impressed by how emotionally invested they were, they did a fantastic job.

“You would think that because they must have to tackle cases like this all the time that they wouldn’t be so emotionally invested, but they really were, you could really feel that emotion, it was really lovely.”

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Above - Hazel Denham and her dog Bertie

A mum and daughter who also played their part in the search have set up a JustGiving fundraiser in honour of the volunteer services whose effort were crucial in finding Hazel and Bertie.

Ali Elderfield a healthcare worker for the NHS and her daughter Jess Scarborough, both of Forest Green, created the fundraiser last Friday with the proceeds going towards the Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA), Serve-On and the Search and Rescue Dogs Association.

They aim to raise £600, and have already raised £220.

Ali said: “I was overwhelmed with the help and support from the community, the way they joined together was overwhelming and it really made me quite emotional knowing how much people locally pull together at times like this.

“We decided to set up the just giving page to raise money for the rescue teams that were taking part in Hazel and Bertie's rescue.

“I'm so proud to be living in this community with such amazing, kind and thoughtful people, everyone treated this as if it was their own relative was missing.”

The four-day search for Hazel and Bertie saw cooperation from many different services and agencies, including professionals, volunteers and a vast input from members of the public.

Police officers and PCSOs guided members of the public by distributing maps of areas to search, the National Police Air Service conducted hours of scouting with thermal-imaging cameras throughout Minchinhampton, Rodborough, Eastcombe and the Golden Valley.

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Chief inspector Neil Smith said: “I want to thank everyone involved in the search for Hazel - from all our officers and staff to agencies like SARA, Serve-on, SARDA South Wales (Search & Rescue Dog Association) and Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue, the media and the community itself.

“We never gave up hope we would find Hazel but of course after three days we were beginning to fear the worst.

“The reaction to Hazel’s disappearance highlighted the positive side of human nature and what can be done when people come together – the fact that Hazel was finally found by a fellow dog walker who was determined to do her bit was very apt.

“The community should be very proud of its efforts.”

Gloucestershire’s fire service and mountain rescue divisions also played a vital role.

Friends and family of Hazel’s also checked the areas around Uley, where she lived until 18 months ago.

Hazel’s son James Denham, one of six tight-knit siblings, admitted that the family had begun to lose hope after four days and three frosty nights.

He said: “We were absolutely shocked and immensely relieved, we thought we were just going to find her dead somewhere, I just didn’t know if we were going to find her alive by the Friday.

“She’s recovering well, she has a sprained ankle and some very minor bruises.

“She can’t remember where she’s been so we’ll never fully know what happened.

“We’ve bought trackers for her and Bertie in case anything happens again, it’s great to know that he’ll never leave her side.

“We really want her to keep as much of her independence as possibly, she already wants to go back out and walk Bertie.

“The first thing she ate after she was found was an egg sandwich and a cup of tea, it’s amazing that she was in such good shape and not even dehydrated.

“Our thanks go out to everyone who gave their support, from people who had never met her to the emergency services and volunteers, we’re immensely grateful for everything they did for us.”

“We’re taking things day by day and it’s been hectic but it has also brought the family closer together”

To donate to the fundraiser for the volunteer services who participated in the search visit