The mother of missing English backpacker Hugo Palmer says she is “completely numb” but has found some comfort from attending a beach vigil where her son’s belongings were found.
Mr Palmer, 20, who was travelling with his French friend Erwan Ferrieux, 21, was reported missing last weekend.
Personal items including sunglasses, towels, car keys and thongs were found at Shelly Beach and their hire car was discovered nearby.
An extensive search for the tourists, who are feared to have drowned, was scaled back on Wednesday.
Mr Palmer’s mother Tanya McNab has travelled from the UK to hear updates on the investigation directly from NSW Police, and on Sunday attended a community gathering at the beach.
“I’m feeling numb – completely numb,” she said.
“I have been since I heard the news.”
Ms McNab made the difficult journey with her sister, and said she deliberately drove the four hours from Sydney so she could see the trip through her son’s eyes.
He was living his dream by travelling in Australia, she said.
“It had only just started,” Ms McNab said.
“I’m so incredibly proud of him. I love him so much.
“It’s a comfort to me. The messages from his friends and the support here has helped.”
Locals and other backpackers were among those who gathered at the beach to offer words of support for the two families.
French consular representative Nicolas Croizer said he attended to show solidarity.
“I wanted, on behalf of the family but also on behalf of the French community, to show our appreciation,” he said.
“It’s also to show our appreciation for the search that has been done, particularly to the police and the lifesavers.”
He said Mr Ferrieux’s family was in shock.
“They are very proud of their son,” he added.
The boys’ belongings were arranged on the beach among flowers and cards.
“For two beautiful boys lost at our beautiful Shelly Beach,” one card read.
One of the vigil’s organisers, Betsey Drake, said the town could not help but feel for the families.
“We decided as a community we were missing them too, even though we never met them,” she said.
“We wanted to do something to commemorate them having been here and being lost from this place.”
Local Francine Barratt said many people were not able to sleep knowing two travellers were missing.
“These boys are in our hearts. They’re in our thoughts. They’ve been there all week,” she said.
Ms McNab said she had comfort in the kind words offered by those who knew her son.
“All his friends love him so much,” she said.
“The kindest words from his friends. They said they’d been honoured to have him in his lives.
“I did question whether I was doing the right thing coming here, but I’m so glad I stayed.”
NSW Police have said the pair arrived in Australia in November with a group of friends.
Mr Palmer documented his travels with Mr Ferrieux on social media. The last post was on February 16.