British tourist rescued after swimming out to sea in pursuit of cruise liner

Susan Brown was found in the sea off the coast near Funchal port in the Madeira Islands Credit: Jens Kalaene/DPA

A British holidaymaker has been rescued from the sea after reportedly attempting to swim after a cruise ship which she thought her husband had boarded without her.

Susan Brown, 65, allegedly told hospital staff she jumped into the water and tried to catch up with the liner 'Marco Polo' because she mistakenly believed her partner was on it.

After four hours in the water she was rescued by Portuguese fishermen who heard her screaming "help me, help me" and was taken to hospital in a confused state and with advanced hypothermia.

Felix Marques, harbour captain and local maritime police commander at Funchal port in the Madeira Islands, told reporters Mrs Brown and her husband had originally been travelling on the cruise ship she tried to catch but had decided to leave their trip early.

He said it was believed the couple bought plane tickets to get home during their cruise's stop-over in Madeira but that on the way to the airport Mrs Brown, who was not with her husband at the time, became confused and tried to get back on the ship which was already at sea.

Mrs Brown jumped into the water whilst on her way to the airport Credit: Google Maps

Marques said: "The situation is not well-known, we only know Susan Brown's version. She had decided with her husband to stop the cruise in Madeira and they went to the airport to buy a ticket to fly home to Bristol.

"We confirmed that Mr Brown had booked tickets to go back to Bristol on Saturday night. Susan Brown must have got a little lost and, when she was close to the airport, she saw the cruise at a large distance and threw herself into the sea, trying to reach the ship.

"She had a little bag with her documents in. I think it was impulsive, to try to swim to the boat ... she was upset and desperate. It didn't end badly but she could have died in the water because when she was rescued she had hypothermia, it was very serious."

Police have confirmed Mrs Brown's husband Michael was not on-board and has returned to England, Marques added.

He said: "It's a complicated story and we need to wait for Mrs Brown to recuperate to find out the full story."