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Ellis Downes: Police force 'sorry' over handling of search for drowned teen

Ellis (right) with his father. Credit: ITV Meridian

A police force accused of failing to search for a 16-year-old who drowned in the Thames has apologised to the victim's family.

Ellis Downes, 16, described as "bubbly and cheeky", died after going for a swim with friends in the River Thames, in Culham, near Abingdon on Saturday.

His body was recovered on Monday night by volunteer divers, who responded to an appeal by Ellis' family.

His family allege that police failed to send their own divers to the scene due to a lack of resources, telling ITV Meridian that their response was "an absolute shambles from start to finish".

Tributes are left at the scene. Credit: ITV Meridian

They also claim that volunteer divers were initially stopped from searching the river and were only allowed in when Ellis' father threatened to jump in himself.

In a video message, Thames Valley Police Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Ross said the force was "profoundly sorry for the treatment of the Downes family".

She said the force had "fell below the standards" in the level of support, compassion, information and communication that was offered to Ellis' family.

The force has referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Nikki Ross, Assistant Chief Constable at Thames Valley Police, apologising. Credit: Facebook

Alex Downes, Ellis' sister, welcomed the apology, saying it was "a start".

"Glad that the police made the first step by admitting they had done us wrong by referring themselves to the IPCC," she said in a Facebook post.

"This public apology is the least we expected; we know, of course, an apology is never going to bring Ellis back, but it's a start. Words mean nothing without actions though.

"All we want now is for things to change about the way TVP handle operations so that we can prevent this happening again in the future, then hopefully, thanks to Ellis, no family will have to go through this ever again."

Darren Downes, Ellis' father. Credit: ITV Meridian

Ellis was about to turn 17 and was looking forward to learning to drive and training to become a tree surgeon, according to his family.

"He was my right-hand man and it feels like my arm has been cut off," Ellis' father Darren Downes said.

"We did everything together; we were inseparable - we were best buddies as well as father and son."

He added: "We expect more from the police and we just didn't get it."

The 16-year-old drowned after going swimming with friends. Credit: ITV Meridian