Police receive report of body sighting in Solent - but say man is still missing

LOOK OUT Police search for a man in the waters of Portsmouth Harbour after he jumped into the sea to save two children who had got into difficulty.  Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (122501-6)
LOOK OUT Police search for a man in the waters of Portsmouth Harbour after he jumped into the sea to save two children who had got into difficulty. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (122501-6)
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POLICE probing the disappearance of a hero missing in the Solent after trying to save two girls have received a reported sighting of a body.

Hampshire police received a call just after 9pm last night from a member of the public claiming to have seen a body near the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour.

The area was searched but by 5.40pm tonight the force said the 33-year-old man had not yet been found.

Inspector Phil Jones said: ‘No remains or items linked with the 33-year-old have been located so far.

‘Our Marine Unit remains on patrol along the coast near Portsmouth Harbour. We are working closely alongside officers on board the Ministry of Defence Police launch.

‘Officers and staff from our Safer Neighbourhoods teams in coastal communities are on routine patrols along beaches and seafronts, looking for any signs of this man.

‘Some of the man’s relatives have been told about the change in status to our operation. Officers are continuing to contact and inform other immediate family members.’

The missing 33-year-old man and another man entered the water near the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour at about 3.45pm yesterday to help the four-year-old and 10-year-old who were swept out to sea.

The girls and one man returned to the shore.

The alarm was raised and a mammoth search operation was launched after the other man disappeared

But despite extensive searches involving lifeboat volunteers from Hayling Island and Portsmouth, the coastguard rescue helicopter from Lee-on-the-Solent, other emergency services and other vessels, the man has not been found.

The search, which was suspended at nightfall yesterday, resumed at 5am today.

However it was called off at about 7.15am.

Fred Caygill from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: ‘The search involved local rescue teams from Hayling Island and Portsmouth coastguard, the rescue helicopter based at Lee-on-The Solent, other emergency services and other vessels.

‘It was suspended yesterday evening when it got dark.

‘We then at first light this morning. We called out our Hayling Island and Portsmouth coastguard teams to do a search of the shoreline.

‘They walked the area, looking in nook and crannies, under piers, in inlets and in the water.

A Hampshire police spokeswoman at 8.30am today rubbished rumours that a body had been found.

She said: ‘This is still very much a missing persons inquiry and rumours on social networking sites that a body has been recovered are not true.’

The girls, were in the sea near Tower Street, Old Portsmouth, about 3.40pm yesterday when they were pulled out by the current and the two men jumped in to save them.

Worried bystanders watched from the Hot Walls and The Spice Island Inn as the search took place.

Jan Withers, 51, of Southsea, who was with her husband Nigel, 52, said: ‘It’s tragic to think that someone so brave has gone missing.

‘A family’s life has potentially been completely ruined. It’s the first time we’ve heard of this happening here.’

Fisherman Mikey Myall, 44, of Queen Street, Portsea, said: ‘A girl came running down to the outside of The Spice Island Inn screaming that two children were in the water. The whole thing is really sad.

‘But something needs to be done about people swimming in the harbour because the current is so dangerous. Signs need to be put up.’

Michael Kays, 56, of Warblington Street, Old Portsmouth, said: ‘I hope that the man is found safe and sound.’