FAMILY friends have spoken of their heartache as the search for the missing hiker Stephanie Simpson enters its fourth day.

Stephanie, who has not been seen since Saturday in New Zealand, was hiking by herself in the Mount Aspriring National Park.

Miss Simpson was first reported missing on Monday, after she failed to turn up for her landscaping job, and her friends of 15 years have told the Echo that time is running out to find her.

Two close friends, who wished to remain anonymous, have spoken to the Echo.

One said: “Time is running out. “It’s the not knowing that’s horrible.

“We’re trying to get an answer from anyone.

“We’re trying to stay positive at the moment.

“It’s a struggle and it’s hard to sleep.

“When you do wake up, you look straightaway to try and find some news about her.”

He also stated that police in New Zealand found her car early on, which she has converted into a campervan-style living space.

He added that Stephanie had been pictured with a man, hiking together on Friday.

However, locals have said that she was then seen by herself on Saturday.

The friend added: “She’s been hiking for years. No one could stop her travelling.

"It was her life ambition.

"They had flooding there recently. Two people have been washed up in a nearby river in recent weeks.

“If she’s stranded, how long can she survive without water?

"Somebody went missing there for a month in 2016 and they were found alive, which gives us hope."

Stephanie’s parents have flown out to New Zealand to help with the search, and have been joined by her boyfriend, from Australia, who she met while travelling.

A fundraiser has been launched today to help continue the search. A target of £20,000 has been set which will go to LANDSAR, the search and rescue team who are involved in the search.

LANDSAR are solely reliant on public donations.

To donate,