STUDENTS joined police and rescue volunteers in the search for their missing colleague Luke Pearce.

The popular 19-year-old engineering student disappeared in the early hours of Sunday (May 11) after drinking with friends in Durham City.

Around 30 fellow Durham University students today (Tuesday, May 13) helped police, firefighters and the Weardale and Teesdale Search and Mountain Rescue Team comb the banks of the River Wear.

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Mr Pearce from Hounslow, West London and a first year Master Engineering student based at St Cuthbert’s Society , was last seen at 1.30am on Sunday morning walking beside the river from Baths Bridge towards the bandstand and Durham Amateur Rowing Club – his accommodation is nearby at Parsonsfield Court .

He is white, 6ft 2ins tall with short ginger hair and was wearing a blue polo shirt, blue jeans and white trainers.

Friend Chris Rousell, a bio-medical science student who was among the group of searchers, said: “I would describe him as a gentle giant. He is quite a big lad but he wouldn’t really hurt a fly.

“He is a really nice guy, very funny, very witty, a really good laugh.”

Professor Graham Towl, Durham University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Warden, said that the university community was “shocked’’ by Mr Pearce’s disappearance and that students had asked if they could help find him

He added that the Rugby-playing teenager was doing well at his studies, was hardworking and popular.

“His popularity is reflected in the number of students who wanted to help with the search. We are hoping for the best but are fearful of the worst.”

Chief Inspector Andy Huddleston said: “We remain very concerned for Luke as this is completely out of character and there has been no trace of him since the early hours of Sunday morning.

“We are specifically appealing for a couple who were seen walking along the riverbank from Baths Bridge towards the bandstand at around 1.30am on Sunday morning to get in touch, as it is likely that they would have passed Luke.

“We don’t believe this couple were in any way connected with Luke’s disappearance, but think they were the last people to see him on the night and could have crucial information about his whereabouts.”

Anyone with any information should call Durham Police on 101.