Page last updated at 17:21 GMT, Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Man held for suspected ferry leap

The Barfleur ferry
The man said he had leapt from the Barfleur cross-Channel ferry

A massive search took place off the Dorset coast after a man said he had jumped from a cross-Channel ferry as it approached Poole Harbour.

The man said he had leapt from the Barfleur along with others in stormy conditions en route from Cherbourg.

He was held on suspicion of illegal immigration after being found nearby at the Sandbanks-Studland chain ferry.

Police have since said he is a 40-year-old Spanish man and they do not believe he or anyone else went overboard.

Coastguards initially believed two men and two women were in the water on Tuesday night but the search was called off at 0500 GMT on Wednesday.

'Conflicting accounts'

Dorset Police said there was no evidence to suggest anyone else was missing.

They said the man was due to be bailed, while officers continued to investigate an alleged offence of wasting police time.

Officers found the man at the chain ferry wearing a wetsuit under soaked clothing just after 2300 GMT on Tuesday.

The search began soon after.

"The man has given officers various conflicting accounts," a police spokesman said.

The UK Border Agency said it was "satisfied that no further action is required by the border agency because he is a European national (Spanish)".

"Following our inquiries, we do not believe that the man jumped from a ferry or that anyone else is involved in this incident."

The suspect was taken to Poole Hospital for treatment but was later discharged.

He was indicating he was with three other people so the lifeboats were launched
Anne-Marie Clark, RNLI

Earlier, Brittany Ferries said the name the man had given police did not match anyone on their passenger lists.

Spokesman Stephen Tuckwell said if the man had jumped from the ferry he must have been a stowaway, adding no-one had seen him go overboard.

"Certainly, he never checked in with us," Mr Tuckwell said.

"We have no evidence that he jumped off our ship."

Search and rescue crews, including a coastguard helicopter, battled stormy weather conditions for several hours searching the area.

Anne-Marie Clark, of the RNLI, said: "He didn't speak English. He was indicating he was with three other people so the lifeboats were launched."

A Portland Coastguard spokeswoman said: "We have had gale force winds and rain, so we have had a really tough search."

She said the man had been found "cold and wet" and added: "The search was terminated with further information."

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