Police believe body is missing Stella

A BODY has been found in the search for a missing ten-year-old girl who vanished off the coast of Clacton yesterday.

POLICE believe a body found in the sea off the coast of Clacton is that of missing ten-year-old Stella Akanbi.

Stella, from Milton Keynes, was swimming with another ten-year-old girl off Clacton beach when they got into difficulties just after 4pm yesterday afternoon.

A body was found today just before 4pm in a place known locally as the palace breakwater, which is in the middle section of the area which emergency services cordoned off.

A spokesman for Essex Police said: “Police can now confirm that the Essex Police helicopter spotted the body of a child in the water off Clacton about 3.45pm this afternoon and the RNLI lifeboat has recovered the body.

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“Formal identification is still to take place but police believe that is that of ten-year-old Stella Akanbi.

“Her family has been informed and are being supported by police liaison officers.

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“An investigation will take place into the circumstances surrounding her death, the Coroner will be informed and an inquest held in due course.

“The family has asked that they are not approached by the media at this distressing time.”

Aimee Rampton, Watch Manager at Thames Coastguard added: “This is such a sad moment for all rescue workers when a child is involved and is finally located.

“We feel desperately sorry for the family at this time and our deepest sympathies are with the Stella's parents. We'd like to thank the general public for all their help and assistance in this very sad matter.”

Earlier today, speaking from the coastguard's HQ at Clacton, overlooking Martello Bay, scene commander Steve Moffat told how Stella disappeared under the waves on Sunday after the man who was trying to rescue her also found himself in difficulty.

About 60 people from different rescue services, including the police helicopter, the RAF, two lifeboats and three of the Tendring Council's beach patrol boats, are involved in the search which is currently stretching along six miles of coast.

He said the rescued girl was recovered from the water at the resort after two other people leapt onto lilos when they saw all three were struggling.

Mr Moffat said: “These two girls were swimming, they were quite happy, but they got out of their depth and started to call for help.

“A passer-by on the beach noticed and swam out to them to attempt to recover one of them but didn't get her to the beach.

“He lost hold of the girl as he attempted to rescue her. People on the beach noticed he was in difficulties and grabbed lilos from someone in the hope of rescuing all three.

“When they reached one girl, they brought her in, but they could not see the other girl.

“We do not know how the man got back to shore."

Mr Moffat said the conditions yesterday were 'perfect' and very similar to those today - calm and clear.

He added that the girls, who had both travelled from Milton Keynes for a day trip to the coast, were around 50 yards out to sea, where the depth of the water would have been about 10ft at the time.

Local people on jet skis from Clacton's watersports club also helped with the search yesterday.

The Metropolitan diving team were brought in at low tide at about 3pm today to trawl the seabed with a fingertip search.

Earlier police divers searched beneath the resort's imposing Victorian pier, while above them fairground rides were in operation and holidaymakers were enjoying the hot weather.

Police revealed that Stella's mother visited the beach in the early hours of this morning to watch the rescue operation underway.

Although the air search was initially called off when darkness fell, the Essex Police helicopter returned to the resort later to help illuminate the water in the run up to low tide at around 2am.

Mr Moffat said no-one was to blame for the Stella's disappearance, which he described as a 'tragic accident'.

He said: “To lose anyone is a tragedy, my thoughts are with the parents. They have driven up from Milton Keynes, knowing that their child is missing.

“Tragedies happen and this was just an accident. These people play on the beach perfectly ok and every now and then something happens.

“There are different instances of people being stupid, but this is not one of them, it is just a tragic accident.”

A large section of the beach, on both sides of the pier, remains cordoned off with police tape as the search continues.

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