FAMILIES affected by the Purbeck Isle tragedy who faced their first Christmas without their loved ones have thanked everyone who has supported them through a difficult year.

The loss of the Purbeck Isle fishing boat with three crew on board rocked the Weymouth and Portland community this year.

On May 17 the Weymouth fishing boat, skippered by David McFarlane and crew Jack Craig and Robert Prowse, went out but never returned, sparking a three-day search.

The wreck of the boat and the body of David McFarlane, 35, were found during the search and rescue mission.

In August the body of Jack Craig, 21, was found off the Devon coast. Robert Prowse, 20, remains missing.

In the wake of the tragedy a fund was set up for the families of the crewmen.

Since the Purbeck Isle Memorial Fund was established £56,000 has gone through the bank.

Money has already been used to help the families of the three fishermen and to cover funeral costs for David McFarlane and Jack Craig and a celebration service for the life of Robert Prowse.

Facing the first Christmas without their loved ones the families thanked the public for their help and support.

Peter Prowse, Robert Prowse’s father, said: “I’d like to thank anyone that has donated to the fund and thank the committee for all they have done.”

Mr Prowse said it had been a ‘difficult’ year but that he wanted to thank everyone and wished all the fishermen a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Colin and Grace McFarlane, the parents of David McFarlane, said they had a big family Christmas together, eating dinner under David’s portrait and raising a glass of his favourite tipple in honour of their son.

They said the skipper of the Purbeck Isle used to have a glass of rose wine on his return to harbour in tribute to his partner Vicky.

Mr McFarlane said: “Especially at this time we are feeling David’s loss greatly. We feel as though there’s a huge gap we cannot fill.”

He added: “We would like to thank everyone who has offered our family help or support in any way during this difficult time.

“We hoped everyone had a very happy Christmas.”

Andy Alcock, from the Purbeck Isle Memorial Fund thanked all the businesses who had taken collection buckets and thanked everyone for their generosity.

The fund grew from spontaneous collections at the harbourside establishments where the fishermen used to drink and the Weymouth and Portland Fisherman and Licensed Boatman Association were asked to coordinate it.

He said: “On behalf of the committee our thoughts are out with the families at this very difficult time.”

A line will be drawn under the current collections and in future the fund will be used to help the families as well as other families affected by any future tragedies.