Oxford

Family of drowned teen 'left without police help'

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Media captionDarren Downes said he felt like the police gave his family "no support"

A drowned teenager's family say they were forced to hire a boat and find private divers to recover his body when they were left without police help.

Darren Downes said he believes "a lost dog" would have got better treatment than his missing 16-year-old son Ellis.

The teenager disappeared while playing in the River Thames at Culham, Oxfordshire, and private divers found his body nearby two days later.

A police watchdog will now investigate Thames Valley Police over the case.

Updates on this story and more from Oxfordshire

Speaking to BBC Radio Oxford, Mr Downes said on the evening his son went missing his family sat for "hours and hours" without any contact from the police.

He eventually discovered no divers had been used to search the river and his daughter Alex had to ring round private companies.

Image copyright Darren Downes
Image caption Darren Downes said "a lost dog" would have received better treatment than his son Ellis

Thames Valley Police axed its specialist search and recovery team, which carried out underwater operations, as a result of budget cuts in 2014.

Mr Downes said: "We just felt totally left out and shocked, we really thought everything was being done.

"The way everything was handled from start to finish… was horrendous, absolutely horrendous. I think a lost dog would probably get better treatment."

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Media captionPrivate dive firm boss Peter Faulding branded the police's obstruction of his team "disgusting"

Ellis disappeared on Saturday evening and private dive company Specialist Group International discovered his body at 23:00 BST on Monday, after answering a Facebook appeal.

But Mr Downes said the dive team was initially barred from entering the water, which delayed the search by several hours. Police relented when he threatened to "go down and jump in myself".

He said: "They [Specialist Group International] work all over the world and the police wouldn't let them go in the Thames in Abingdon.

"The police never really helped whatsoever... they were more concerned about where people were parking."

Dive team chief executive Peter Faulding has branded the police's obstruction of his team "disgusting" and said the operation was the worst he had seen in his career.

Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld also said he has concerns about the search and has asked the chief constable for an explanation.

Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Ross said the force was "aware of the family and community concerns around our actions following this tragic incident".

A spokeswoman said the force has referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission over its handling of the case, so it would be "inappropriate" to comment further.

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

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