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Body found in missing fishermen search

The three men have not been seen since leaving Weymouth. Photo: ITV News

A body believed to be that of one of three fishermen missing since yesterday has been recovered from the sea, police said.

The men, named locally as 37-year-old skipper David MacFarland, crewman Robert Prowse, 23, and Jack Craig, 22, had not been seen or heard from since leaving Weymouth on their boat the Purbeck Isle.

ITV News' Richard Pallot has this report.

The body of a male has been recovered from the sea by coastguard at approximately 5.30pm today.

This is believed to be one of the missing fishermen from the vessel Purbeck Isle.

The families of the crew members have been informed.

– Dorset Police spokesman

The spokesman added that the body had not yet been formally identified.

Searches have been under way off the Dorset coast since the men were reported missing at around 6pm last night, including help from Navy warships. Coastguards continued to search a 10-mile area off the coast of Portland Bill today using a helicopter and a lifeboat.

Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesman Fred Caygill said teams were hoping to send down specialist equipment to look at an object of a similar size to that of the Purbeck Isle discovered on the sea bed by a survey ship with sonar equipment.

We were offered the assistance of the Odyssey Explorer, which is a survey vessel which normally surveys the sea bed as part of its commercial work.

They were able to use their side scan sonar, which discovered on the sea bed, at the depth of about 55 metres, the shape of something on the sea bed.

It is very difficult to identify what that particular object is. We are concentrating on trying to identify this object to either discount it or count it in, as the case may be.

Portland coastguard remained at the scene after 9pm tonight and were still waiting for the right conditions to inspect the object. The coastguard helicopter that had been helping with the search was stood down due to low visibility.

Andy Alcock, 59, secretary of the Weymouth and Portland Fisherman and Licensed Boatman Association, said local fishermen had tried phoning the men's mobile phones when they first heard the boat was missing.

The lads had tried to phone the vessel and got just cut off lines, all three mobile phones just cut off, which is never a good sign.

He told how the search had been scaled up by the coastguard into a full-blown search and rescue as yesterday evening went on.

As the evening panned out into darkness it got more and more serious.

It then became an all-night vigil to try and find the vessel.

The three men were "popular lads", he said, adding:

Weymouth is a small place and you can walk around this town on any given day and you can look at any boat and you'd know the names of everybody on that boat and these three lads were no different.

They were very popular and they'd worked on other vessels in the harbour.

Mr Caygill confirmed that the boat had broken down in January 2011 and the three men were rescued by a lifeboat and helicopter that scrambled to the scene.