Hopes fade for missing teenager

PUBLISHED: 10:50 03 March 2008 | UPDATED: 08:22 02 June 2010

Jonathon Barber's brother Alex and mother Carolyn.

Jonathon Barber's brother Alex and mother Carolyn.

HOPES were fading for missing teenager Jonathon Barber today after a hat was found close to the spot where he disappeared.The 18-year-old university student, from Downham Market, was last seen in the early hours of Saturday as he walked home

Police searching the River Great Ouse between Downham Market and Salters

HOPES were fading for missing teenager Jonathon Barber today after a hat was found close to the spot where he disappeared.

The 18-year-old university student, from Downham Market, was last seen in the early hours of Saturday as he walked home from a night out with friends along the River Ouse.

A training shoe similar to the pair he was wearing when he disappeared was found in the Ouse at Denver Sluice as police, coastguards, volunteers and an RAF search and rescue helicopter searched throughout Saturday and Sunday for Jonathon.

Police divers were sent in to carry out an underwater search of the area this afternoon, after a beanie hat believed to belong to Jonathon was found.

Jonathon Barber went missing while walking home with friends early on Saturday morning.

This morning around 100 young people joined the search for the former Downham Market High School pupil, who was known around the town as Jonno.

They were split into groups to search stretches of the tidal Great Ouse between Salter's Lode, where Jonathon was last seen, and Stowbridge, around five miles downstream.

Parents Carolyn and Nick Barber were visibly moved by the turn-out with volunteers queueing up for briefings at Downham police station.

“It's phenomenal, it's just amazing,” said Mrs Barber. “It shows how popular he was and how many friends he had.”

Mr Barber added: “We've got people here from Northampton, Manchester - we must have nigh-on 100 volunteers here. I'm overwhelmed by the level of support, it's quite incredible.”

Their son, who was studying computer-generated animation at Staffordshire University, went missing at around 3am on Saturday. He was with a group of teenagers who elected to walk home to Downham along the riverbank, after a night spent partying with friends at Salter's Lode.

It included cousin Owen Dixon, 19, who was the last to see or speak to Mr Barber, when he asked him for a light as they walked along the flood bank.

“We were walking along the riverbank, we must have done it 1,000 times before,” he said. “But it was horrendously windy, it was the worst I've ever seen.”

Jonathon's mother Carolyn, 44, said: “He's walked that route many, many times going out and coming back, we always say it's safer than walking on the road that time of night. They'd all had a drink but they were fit to walk back, they weren't staggering.

“They were walking within 10 yards of each other when he asked Owen for a light for his cigarette, he turned round to give him a light and he wasn't there.”

Downstream of Denver Sluice, the fast-flowing tidal Ouse cuts through open countryside between high flood banks, before reaching King's Lynn. The exposed river banks and the fens around them were lashed by gale force winds on Friday night, with gusts of up to 30mph.

Jim Carter, Jonathon's 77-year-old grand-father, said: “I think a gust of wind must have caught him. The whole family's good swimmers but it would have been so cold in there it wouldn't have made much difference.”


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