Man’s handcuffed body found in Southampton river

Reece Hillier
Image caption The man has been named locally as Reece Hillier

The body of a man who fled police in January has been found in a river still wearing handcuffs.

The 22-year-old, named locally as Reece Hillier, ran off after being detained by officers in Southampton.

Police launched a manhunt but found no trace of him – until a magnet fisherman discovered a body in the River Itchen at Woodmill on Sunday.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct has agreed the death should be investigated by Hampshire Constabulary.

It is not known whether the man entered the water by accident or in an attempt to evade the police.

The BBC has been told he was about to be searched for drugs and faced the possibility of arrest.

Image caption Fisherman Gary Fussell said the man was handcuffed behind his back

Gary Fussell said he was magnet fishing when he “saw something floating in the water, told the police officer and they came to sort it out.”

Mr Fussell said the man was handcuffed behind his back.

Friends of Mr Hillier, who was from Southampton, said he was “the life of the party” and a “loveable rogue”.

His girlfriend, Britney Bellows, said he was “always singing and dancing and filling the room with laughter and joy”.

Floral tributes and balloons have been left at the scene.

Image caption Floral tributes and balloons have been left at the scene

The death is not being treated as suspicious, police said.

The force said it was called at 18:19 GMT on 17 March after a body was found in the river.

“Identification has now taken place and we can confirm that the body is of a 22-year-old man from Southampton,” a spokesman said.

“We can confirm that he was handcuffed, having been detained by police in Southampton on 12 January.

“Initial inquiries suggest the body had been in the water for some time.”

A post-mortem examination took place on Monday and an inquest will be opened when the body has been formally identified.

Image copyright Gillian Thomas
Image caption The body was found by a magnet fisherman in the River Itchen at Woodmill



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