POLICE believe they have recovered the body of a man who jumped into a fast-flowing river to evade a police helicopter he thought was following him.

A mountain rescue team, using canoes, discovered the body, thought to be that of 21-year-old John Fisher, in the River Wear, in Durham City, on Saturday.

It is thought that Mr Fisher and a 20-year-old friend, who has not been named, mistakenly assumed they were being chased by a police helicopter in the early hours of Monday, February 12.

The helicopter was on a routine operation, and while a police spokesman confirmed that the men had reason to escape police detection, they were not being pursued at the time.

Mr Fisher, who lived with his mother and younger brother in Gilesgate, Durham, went into the water near Barker's Hough sewerage works, close to the city centre.

Now police believe they have found his body half a mile downstream at a part of the river known as The Sands. However, police are keen to stress that the body has not yet been identified.

A spokesman for County Durham Police said: "The body of a man has been found in the River Wear during a search involving canoes by members of the Teesdale Mountain Rescue Team.

"The search, which was carried out with the help of the Northumbria Police underwater search unit, was organised by Durham City police in connection with the disappearance of a man in the city, on February 12.

"It has been thought likely that this man had gone into the water for some reason. It appears that the body has been in the river for some time, but we have yet to confirm whether or not it is that of the missing man."

Following the incident last month, police searched the river and its banks with sniffer dogs and divers, but without success.

At the time, a police spokes- man admitted that, had Mr Fisher gone into the water, his chances of having survived were "not good".