THE family and friends of Dr Sophie Williams are hoping people will give a special gift this Christmas to help them reach the target they need to enable her to return home.

A trust fund set up to adapt the home Sophie shared with her partner Dr Robert Annewandter, near Bangor, has so far raised more than £44,000 since its launch in May.

University lecturer Sophie fell critically ill after she was infected with Japanese encephalitis in south-east China in July 2015, while undertaking research with students from Bangor University.

The virus paralysed Sophie, 33, who will always need 24-hour care and the aim is to raise £60,000 to make her home accessible.

Sophie’s father, Mike Williams, who is the owner of Castlegate News, in Malton, said: "Sophie has spent nearly three months at the Priory Rehabilitation Centre in Bury where she has gained strength in her hands and neck and is now able to eat pureed food rather than be fed by a tube.

"Sophie has astounded everyone with her recovery and remains very positive. She never complains and to enable her to return home would be such a tremendous boost for her.

“The trust has been set up to extend and adapt the house to Sophie’s needs. We need to alter the house to provide three bedrooms, two shower rooms and suitable access.

"The house is in a wonderful location with amazing views. Everytime it is mentioned to Sophie about returning home her face and eyes light up. Sophie has amazed everyone with her recovery and remains very positive. She never complains."

Mike said they were now hoping for a final push to reach the trust fund target in the new year.

"It is amazing that we have raised so much since the fund was set up, including more than£9,400 on our Justgiving page," he said.

"We are so grateful to everyone who has supported us and all those who have donated from all around the world."

Sophie’s partner Robert, who has been at her side every day since she fell ill, said: "Our lives have been on hold, getting Sophie back home will mean so much to us both, and be really beneficial to her recovery.

"Donations and fundraising activities would greatly help Sophie to live a more independent life."

To make a donation, go to just williams