Body found in Culham believed to be missing swimmer Ellis Downes

Ellis Downes Image copyright Downes family
Image caption Ellis Downes disappeared under the water while playing with friends in Culham

A body believed to be missing swimmer Ellis Downes has been found by divers.

The body was found close to where the 16-year-old disappeared while playing in the River Thames at Culham, Oxfordshire, on Saturday evening.

The private dive team who found the body at about 23:00 BST on Monday criticised the "botched" police response, after they were stopped from searching for several hours.

Ellis' sister Alex has paid tribute to her "cheeky, loveable" brother.

She said on Facebook she was heartbroken and described his death as a "terrible nightmare".

She added: "I'm so sorry we didn't find you sooner."

Ellis' dad Darren Downes thanked about 100 people who helped with the search and added: "Our world will never be the same again."

Updates on this story and more from Oxfordshire

'Police criticised'

A Thames Valley Police spokeswoman said formal identification had not yet taken place, but the body was believed to be Ellis Downes, from Harwell, near Didcot.

Police have been criticised for scaling back their search and allegedly refusing to allow a private dive team into the water.

The force previously blamed "poor visibility" in the river for having "hampered" underwater searches.

It said an officer had been assigned to support the family.

Image copyright Peter Faulding
Image caption Divers found the body on Monday night

Peter Faulding, from private dive company Specialist Group International - which found the body, said he had "never seen such a botched operation" in his career.

He said it was not until Mr Downes arrived and threatened to go into the river himself, that police allowed his team to begin searching.

"It was too slow, it could have been done a lot quicker, and had him out by probably 17:30," he added.

Ed Vaizey, MP for Didcot and Wantage, has sent condolences to Ellis' family and said he would offer his support "in any way which they feel is appropriate".

However, he said it would be "wholly inappropriate" to comment further about the criticisms of the police.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said the force had not referred itself over the matter.

Thames Valley Police has not yet responded directly to the allegations.

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