Partner of Guardian journalist Decca Aitkenhead drowns after saving the life of his son while holidaying in Jamaica

Tony Wilkinson worked for Kids Company as an outreach worker, helping gang affiliates on to a better path

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The Independent Online

A British man that worked trying to steer inner-city youngsters away from gangs has drowned after trying to save his son while on holiday in Jamaica.

Tony Wilkinson, 49, went to rescue his son when he was caught struggling to cope with the currents off Calabash Bay on Jamaica’s south coast on Thursday morning.

Mr Wilkinson was able to get the boy to safety but was caught by a strong current himself and was dragged under the water, drowning shortly afterwards.

Mr Wilkinson had worked with the charity Kids Company for four years providing emotional and educational support for inner-city children and teenagers and was enjoying a break with his two sons and his partner, the award-winning Guardian journalist Decca Aitkenhead, before the accident happened.

The family said in a statement: “Tony Wilkinson and his partner Decca Aitkenhead were on holiday in a village on the south coast of Jamaica with their two sons, aged three and four.

"At 8.30 on Thursday morning one of their sons was paddling in the waves and got pulled out to sea. Tony swam out and rescued him.

"Decca swam out and brought their son to shore but the current was too strong for Tony to swim back, and despite the efforts of local fishermen who swam out to help, he drowned before they could get him back to shore.”

Mr Wilkinson had run a home conversion business and an organic deli in east London, before deciding to study psychology and criminology at the University of Westminster.

During the course he joined Kids Company, the charity set up by Camila Batmanghelidjh in 1996, with the aim of helping disadvantaged children and teenagers and steering them away from crime.

Mr Wilkinson had been an outreach worker for nearly five years and was attributed with helping many young gang affiliates on to a better path.

Messages have come in across social media today paying tribute to Mr Wilkinson and extending condolences to his family.

Alan Rusbridger Editor in Chief of the Guardian led the messages posting:  “All @guardian thoughts with Decca Aitkenhead after her partner, Tony Wilkinson, drowned on holiday”