Mother of boy who found by diver looking for Nicola Bulley 'grateful'

Mother of tragic teenager whose body was found in the Thames in 2016 by diver at the centre of search for Nicola Bulley says she will be ‘forever grateful he brought our boy home’

  • Emma Downes’s 16-year-old son Ellis was found dead in the River Thames in 2016
  • Mrs Downes, 51, praised Peter Faulding, the same diver looking for Nicola Bulley  

The mother of a missing schoolboy whose body was later found in the River Thames by diving expert Peter Faulding says she remains ‘forever grateful he brought our boy home’.

Emma Downes’ son Ellis was discovered by Mr Faulding’s Specialist Group International team of volunteers within an hour of entering the water, and two days after the police search began in the River Thames in May 2016.

Mrs Downes, 51, said her family regarded Mr Faulding as a ‘hero’ for ending their ordeal of not knowing what happened to her 16-year-old son after police initially refused his team permission to search the river near Culham in Oxfordshire.

And she feared that Lancashire Police investigating the disappearance of missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley made the same mistake in delaying Mr Faulding’s involvement until more than a week into the search.

Mrs Downes, 51, said her family regarded Mr Faulding as a ‘hero’ for ending their ordeal of not knowing what happened to her 16-year-old son Ellis (pictured)

The body of Ellis Downes (right) was found in the River Thames 48-hours after he vanished in 2016 by the same diver searching for Nicola Bulley

 Speaking from her home near Didcot in Oxfordshire, Mrs Downes told the Daily Mail: ‘We are forever grateful to Peter.

‘It was horrific, the waiting. I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat, it was all a bit of a blur. The thought of Ellis just being in the water was horrific. The sooner he was out, the better.

‘If Peter hadn’t come along he could’ve been in there for weeks. The police were just prolonging our ordeal.

‘He brought our boy back for us – he’s a hero.’

Ellis disappeared after entering the water to play with friends.

But his family said they were frustrated by the ‘under-resourced’ response from Thames Valley Police.

Ellis’ older sister Alex put a message on Facebook asking for help, at which point Mr Faulding got in touch.

Ellis’ father Darren said he became so frustrated with the police’s refusal to let the specialist diving team enter the water that he said he would begin his own search if they did not relent.

Around two days after Ellis went missing, Mr Faulding’s team discovered his lifeless body – less than an hour after volunteers entered the water.

Mr Faulding this week hit back at claims that his team have ‘ulterior motives’ in joining the search for Ms Bulley, describing them as ‘trash’.

And Ellis’ sister Alex, 25, said Mr Faulding’s team refused payment from them for his services.

‘Peter didn’t take a penny from us,’ she said.

‘He refused, but we would have gladly paid him whatever it cost to find Ellis. We are just so grateful to him.’

The family said they remain in contact with Mr Faulding, but that the disappearance of 45-year-old Ms Bulley at St Michaels on Wyre brought back painful memories of their own ordeal.

Mrs Downes said: ‘I thought, how can the police not let Peter in? Have they not learned anything?

‘Why are the police so stubborn? If Peter had been allowed in the water sooner, we would have got Ellis back sooner. We are forever in his debt.

‘I have an idea of what Nicola’s family are going through now, but I would just say: Keep your hope up. Don’t give up.’

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