Parents find body of drowned son after police refuse to help
POLICE were yesterday branded “disgusting” after a devastated family had to recover their drowned son’s body.
Ellis Downes, 16, from Harwell, Oxfordshire, was pulled under by the current of the River Thames at 9pm on Saturday after going for a swim with friends near Abingdon.
But the boy’s family, with the aid of volunteer divers, had to recover his body because Thames Valley Police refused.
Ellis’s father Darren, 44, a painter and decorator from Didcot, said yesterday: “I am disgusted. You think the police are going to do the best job possible but I guess nowadays that just doesn’t happen.
“Now we have Ellis’s body, it’s the best of the worst situation. It may have been another few days with the police handling it. We’ll never know.”
A forensic search expert who led the recovery of the missing teenager also branded the force’s response the “most disgusting” he had seen.
The volunteer divers, who ignored police instructions barring them from entering the water, recovered Ellis’s body within an hour of searching the river on Monday night.
But, as 15 police officers were said to have stood by, the drowned teenager’s family were even forced to carry the divers’ equipment to the water. Friends of the family also took to the river on small boats, paddle boards and kayaks.
Yesterday Peter Faulding, of search experts Specialist Group International, who led the recovery, said: “This is the most disgusting police response I’ve ever seen in 20 years of policing and forensic searches. I’ve never been so humiliated in my life.”
Mr Faulding’s wife saw the Downes family’s desperate pleas on Facebook and alerted her husband.
Mr Faulding said police initially blocked his staff from entering the water on Monday.
Ellis’s distraught mother Emma, 45, thanked the volunteers and added: “If it wasn’t for you our little boy would still be in that river now.”
Thames Valley Police did not respond to the criticism last night.
Instead, a spokesman said it was not treating Ellis’s death as suspicious but “unexplained” and a file was being prepared for the coroner.
It is believed the local force was waiting for a Metropolitan Police diving team to arrive when the volunteers entered the water.