THE family of 47-year-old Lindsay Birbeck have today paid an emotional tribute to her.

Her two children Steven, 19, and Sarah, 16, described her as “a great mum and wife, much loved daughter, loving aunty and sister-in-law and a great friend”.

A murder investigation was launched after Ms Birbeck’s body was found in Accrington Cemetery, nearly two weeks after she had been reported missing from home.

A post mortem examination showed that Lindsay died as a result of compression of the neck.

A number of searches, led by the public, were carried out for the high level teaching assistant, who worked at Ightenhill Primary School in Burnley.

Steven and Sarah thanked the public for their help and support, especially those who took part in the searches.

They said: “On behalf of the whole family we would like to thank every single person that has helped and supported us during the search for our mum – you are all aware now of the tragic circumstances and that she is no longer with us.

“Lindsay was a great mum and wife, much loved daughter, loving aunty and sister-in-law and a great friend too. She loved running, walking, camping and socialising with her small circle of friends.

“Our mum always wanted the best for us and never let us down with anything.

“It saddens us deeply that someone has cruelly taken our mum away from us and now she will never see us get married, have children and set up homes of our own which she would have loved.

“Our mum was very loved by all that met her including all of the pupils that she has taught over the years.

“We have not only lost our mum but we’ve lost our best friend too.

“Could we please ask that people respect our privacy and allow us to grieve at this distressing time and please not to enter into speculation on social media.

“Thank you all again for your help and support.”

Meanwhile, Ightenhill headteacher Kate Marney described Ms Birbeck as a popular woman who will be missed by pupils and colleagues.

She said: "We are deeply shocked and saddened by this tragic news.

"Lindsay was a highly valued and respected member of staff who was popular with both pupils and colleagues.

"We will miss her enormously at school. All our thoughts are with her family at this very sad time.

"We will work with colleagues from Lancashire County Council so that appropriate support is available to our children and colleagues at school, if this is required.

"We will cooperate however we can with the police investigation."

A respectful walk, requested by family, will take place in memory of Lindsay tonight in the Coppice, Accrington. Anybody who is interested in joining in is asked to gather at the Avenue Parade entrance of The Coppice from 6.30pm.

The tributes come as detectives have this morning been given by magistrates a further 36 hours to question a 16-year-old youth arrested on suspicion of Ms Birbeck’s murder.

The boy was arrested on Tuesday evening following a CCTV appeal asking for the identity of a person seen pushing a wheelie bin.

A team of detectives, uniformed officers and staff are continuing to work on the investigation and a number of scenes remain in place, including at the cemetery and behind the Whitakers Arms pub in Burnley Road, Accrington.

Police have urged anyone with information to submit it through the major crime web portal.