THE family of York woman Lisette Dugmore, whose body was found in the River Ouse last month after four-and-half years, say they feel “empty but relieved” to be able to put her to rest.

Lisette, of Clifton, was 36 when she was last seen on CCTV in York city centre. Her body was found in mud alongside the river at Acaster Malbis on January 13 this year.

Lisette’s family today paid tribute ahead of her funeral on Friday and following the opening this week of an inquest, which heard for the first time that someone had seen her go into the Ouse and had tried in vain to save her.

Dion Smith, Lisette’s sister, said: “We were told the day after the body was found that it might be Lisette. The worst part was that it was coming up to near her birthday. I didn’t sleep that night.

"I can’t explain the emotions. We’d waited four-and-a-half years for this news, and when we got it, we were back on a rollercoaster of emotions again, still not knowing if it was her, with that possibility was there.

“But if it was Lisette, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and we could finally put her to rest.”

Items found on the body, including necklaces, keys and a keyfob, were shown to Dion, along with Lisette’s phone, but identification could not be formally confirmed until test results were received.

Dion and her husband, Paul, were told on February 5, and spent until 11pm that night informing the rest of the family, including Betty and Frederick, Lisette’s elderly parents. Dion said: “We felt empty but relieved, and I burst into tears when we found out.”

She said her parents realised what had happened because people had been sending cards and flowers, but said it would really hit them when the funeral was held on Friday.

“I honestly don’t think dad’s gone out of the house unless someone takes him since Lisette disappeared,” she said.

“They haven’t said anything about whether they feel better for knowing, just got on with organising the funeral. It’s their way of coping with it, I think.”

On Monday, the inquest was opened and adjourned into Lisette’s death. It heard how someone had tried to help Lisette when she first entered the river on July 6, 2008, but was unable to do so.

A funeral will be held at York Crematorium on Friday at 2.20pm, with friends, family and Lisette’s colleagues from the RSPCA expected to attend.

Dion said: “The worry is gone now, because we know now where she is, and on Friday we can put her to rest. But she will never be forgotten. We always hoped Lisette would turn up, hoped we could have some way to close it.

“We’d always hoped before, God forbid, anything happened to mum and dad, so they knew where Lisette was, so they could be settled and just know.”

• Lisette’s family wished to thank Karen Wedgewood, Adrian Gathercole and Jackie Scott from North Yorkshire Police, Fielders funeral directors, and Dawn Hunter for their support.