A 37-year-old man whose body was pulled from a lake near Witney has been described as a well-known character around the town.

James Bartlett, of Corn Street, was a former Henry Box School pupil who was never seen without his black and white Collie called Nightingale His body was found in Ducklington Lake yesterday.

Emergency services were called at 7.15am after a member of the public found his dog and a pile of clothes beside the lake.

School friend Becki White, 36, said: “He was a character around town and I never saw him without his dog – he loved her to bits.

“He was in the year above me in school and he had a big circle of friends.

“He was well-known in Witney.”

The footpath around parts of Ducklington Lake were cordoned off yesterday as specialist teams searched the deep water.

Witnesses said boats, search dogs and a helicopter were used.

At one stage, 16 police officers as well as fire fighters were involved.

A police spokesman said: “Thames Valley Police can confirm that the body of a 37-year-old man has been located by officers searching Ducklington Lake. He was pronounced dead at 2.15pm.”

Ducklington resident Karin Snape, who was walking her dog yesterday, said: “I walk around the lake almost everyday and I have never seen anything like this. It's very sad.”

Rob Weller, 29, a partner of nearby business IF Glass and Glazing, said: “I came in this morning and saw the fire engines down here.

“It is shocking. I guess you know it goes on but when you see it on your doorstep it is a bit surreal.”

In March last year, the body of 20-year-old John Godfrey was found in nearby Tar Lakes.