A BODY was found washed up on rocks on the west Dorset coast following a major search operation for a missing man.

It is believed to be Simon Douthwaite whose disappearance in freezing weather sparked a huge search involving dozens of emergency services personnel, search and rescue volunteers and members of the public who offered their help.

It is understood Mr Douthwaite plunged from the Cobb wall at Lyme Regis into the sea.

Dorset was put on alert on Wednesday when information was received about Mr Douthwaite, 41, from Purton, near Swindon, being in the Lyme area. There were concerns for his welfare and police were anxious to trace him.

A wide-scale land and sea search was launched involving police from Dorset and Wiltshire, the force helicopter, police dogs, coastguards, lifeboat and Dorset Search and Rescue to find Mr Douthwaite.

The body, which was found by walkers, was recovered by Lyme Regis RNLI lifeboat from Seven Rock Point, to the west of the Cobb, yesterday morning.

A spokesman for Dorset Police said the death was not being treated as suspicious.

The force spokesman said: “Officers, ambulance staff and the coastguard attended the location where a man believed to be in his 40s was pronounced dead.

“The coroner has been notified, but next of kin are yet to be informed.

“The death is not being treated as suspicious.

“Dorset Police would like to thank members of the public who have assisted with the search for this missing man over the past couple of days.”

A spokesman for Wiltshire Police added: “We have found a body in Dorset which we believe to be the missing person.”

The search for Mr Douthwaite began on Wednesday morning amid concern for his welfare but police stressed that he was not dangerous. Search teams scoured the area of dense woodland around Ware Cliff, which leads to the Undercliff National Nature Reserve and co-ordinated the search from Holmbush car park.

The lifeboat was launched twice on Wednesday, initially at 2pm, in its first call-outs of the year.

A lifeboat spokesman said: “After two and a half hours carrying out a shoreline sweep, and with visibility failing, the lifeboat was stood down.

“But, just 15 minutes after returning, the lifeboat was launched again following a report that a man had appeared to fall from the high wall of the harbour.

“A search afloat and by shore crews proved negative.”

Local shops and businesses were shown a photograph of Mr Douthwaite in the hope of finding him.

The search continued ashore after dark and moved onto Lyme Regis seafront where rescuers checked Langmoor and Lister Gardens and the Cobb.

The search was resumed in the morning and police responded to a report at 10.15am that a body had been found near Monmouth Beach.

The body was recovered by the lifeboat at 10.24am.

The Search team

THE search for Simon Douthwaite at Lyme Regis was supported by volunteers who make up Dorset Search and Rescue (DorSAR).

DorSAR, a registered charity, is a team of trained individuals who work with the emergency services searching for missing people and objects and offering support at major incidents such as flooding.

Team members, including people who raced over from Weymouth when the alarm was raised, scanned areas of Lyme Regis after meeting at the car park in Cobb Road. Their search included checking sheds, outbuildings and gardens.

Search team numbers increased during the evening when more members became available to help. Weather conditions were poor with temperatures plummeting as the evening went on.

DorSAR operations officer Trevor Antell said 20 volunteers in total were involved in the search which saw the team deployed from 3pm-11pm on Wednesday.

He said: “We had good day coverage despite the challenges that brings when many are working. We are always looking for volunteers, especially people who are available during the day.”

New volunteers need to be reasonably fit, available for a reasonable proportion of the day and able to train for 5-10 hours a month. Previous experience is not necessary as full training will be given.

To find out more see dorsar.org.uk