Body found in search for missing fisherman

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The Independent Online

A body has been found washed ashore in an area where a Somalian went missing while fishing in bad weather, police said today.

Osman Sharif, 32, from London was an inexperienced sailor who was alone in his rigid inflatable boat (Rib) in Christchurch Harbour, Dorset, on Tuesday when he is feared to have fallen overboard.

Rescuers stopped searching for him the following day and police began a missing persons investigation.

Dorset and Hampshire Police were today recovering the body which was found on a beach in Barton on Sea, Christchurch Bay, yesterday and has not been identified.

Poor weather and inaccessibility of the site meant it would be a "lengthy process", Hampshire Police said.

Mr Sharif was last heard of at 2pm on Tuesday when he called his girlfriend - around the same time as he was last seen on the boat.

She raised the alarm after 10pm that evening when he did not return home.

Rescuers do not know if he was wearing a life jacket or if he knew how to work a GPS system in his boat.

"He didn't have any form of wetsuit on," a Portland Coastguard spokesman said at the time. "If he got thrown overboard he would have no chance of survival."

Mr Sharif's car was found by a friend at Mudeford Quay at 10pm on Tuesday and his grey inflatable was found at Chewton Bunny by the Coastguard helicopter in the early hours of the following morning.

"We don't think he has done very much fishing from a boat," said a Coastguard spokesman. "We understand it is only the second time he has been out fishing from a boat as opposed to from the shore."

The Rib was small for the force six winds and rough seas, he said.

"If he wasn't very experienced in boats he probably would not realise that.

"If people aren't prepared they can get carried away and can get themselves in to trouble."

He added: "It would have been uncomfortable in those conditions. We would not recommend somebody with his amount of experience going out in those conditions."

On board his boat were heavy sweaters, a repair kit, reflective jacket, spare oil and fishing tackle.

"I personally think he probably fell over, but that's only from what we found on the boat because there seemed to be no other reason for it to have happened."