THE wife of missing fisherman Mitch Ilie is keeping a candle burning for him in the hope he may still be alive.

Friends of the family told The Argus Lacramioara Ilie is holding out hope her husband has miraculously survived days in freezing water as long as the candle lit in his memory keeps burning.

Mr Ilie and three of his friends were forced to abandon their fishing boat off the Shoreham coast when it was hit by a larger boat in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The father-of-four and his brother-in-law Irinez Popovici are still missing. The body of a 50-year-old man was recovered within hours while Elvis Cojocariu was rescued after surviving four hours battling for his life in the cold waters.

An appeal has now been launched to raise £20,000 for Mr Ilie’s family as they cope with the emotional and financial aftermath of the tragedy.

Karina Leighton, daughter of the Ilies’ landlord Terry Brown, was inspired to start a crowdfunder to help the family after reading online comments from kind-hearted Argus readers asking how they could help.

She said the money would be needed for day-to-day living costs for Mrs Ilie who has three teenage children and a two-year-old son James.

She added: “Mitch would always be helping people. But it meant that he was always short of money. He didn’t have lots of savings so the financial difficulties for the family is immediate.

“It’s been complicated because Mitch is currently missing which makes it difficult to claim anything in his name.

“It must be so horrific for the family. It is bad enough to have to go through all that without having to worry about how you can pay your rent or put food on the table.

“I have been thinking ever since I heard about Mitch’s disappearance, what can I do to help the family?

“Flowers won’t help them that much at this time, they really need some sort of assistance.”

Mr Ilie is well-known in the Elm Grove area as the manager of Mitch and Grandpa’s Bike Shop.

Sheila Gover, widow of Stewart “Grandpa” Gover who ran the shop until his death in 2015, has urged customers with bikes at the shop to come forward to claim them and pay for the work to help the family with their financial difficulties.

She said: “Lacramioara has not got any income at all at the moment. All the money is in Mitch’s name.

“The family is very religious and they are keeping a candle burning for him, if it keeps burning they still have hope he is alive.

“Mitch was a workaholic, he would start working at 5am, he would do anything to get money for his family.

“I told him you can’t keep working all the time, you have to find time to spend with Lacramioara and James.

“It’s heartbreaking for the family. Little James is calling out ‘where’s my daddy, why hasn’t my daddy come home?’”

Mrs Gover said she could not run the shop herself but hoped someone could be found to step in and keep it going in memory of Mitch and Stewart.

Anyone wishing to collect their bike can contact Mr Brown about opening times on 07711679333. To support the crowdfunder visit