I wanted to bring him back alive, said volunteer who led search for TV doctor Michael Mosley

A bay of swimmers and a huge, shocked pack of Greek and British press gathered on Sunday afternoon to watch the devasting ending to a story which has gripped the world for the last four days.

The body of the TV doctor Michael Mosley, 67, had been found around 10.30am by a boat containing the mayor of Symi after a search which had confounded the entire island.

The former medical personality, author of the popular fasting diet that became known to whole nations as the “5:2”, had been so close to safety when he died.

The devastation of emergency search teams who had been just 50m from Dr Mosley’s demise was palpable as he was carefully carried back down the 200m stretch from fall to marina.

Teams of volunteers had worked from 7am until 3am for three days in an attempt to locate him – but had missed his body by metres and the island remained in disbelief about just how that had happened.

It was the mood of a husband and wife team who had searched endlessly for him that summed up the feeling towards this tragic – and it was hoped, preventable – accident.

Jannis and Sophia Volas, who have been married for 37 years, have two boys and live near the marina in Symi, had been the chief volunteers heading into the most dangerously rocky parts of Dr Mosley’s suspected routes each day until now.

It was this area in which Symi’s most poisonous snakes thrived, deep in the crevices of jagged rocks where he potentially might have fallen, where the couple’s relentless search continued day after day.

They left only to make enough money to support their family – Ms Volas working in a Symi bakery and Mr Volas a plasterer and blacksmith – but their mahogany-tanned faces, the way their hair stood still in the heat and the evident exhaustion on both faces showed just how much Greek volunteers had tried to find him alive.

It was Mr Volas who was among the group of 15 responsible over the weekend for the most dignified removal of a body any of our press pack had ever seen.

It took them almost an hour to analyse how best to carry Dr Mosley from the mountain, and the sadness with which they did that, felt by all below, stayed with us that evening as we thought of the family.

The family, who had been advised not to come to see the body themselves because of the effect of the heat on their beloved father and husband, were believed to be either following his body to Rhodes or coming to this section of the island tomorrow to lay flowers.

After Dr Mosley’s body had been watched leaving the bay by boat, carefully wrapped and strapped onto a gurney, Mr Volas couldn’t say a single word to me.

Before seeing the body and carrying it down, he had shaken his head and told me it was with great sadness he had heard of the result before he came to the rescue with police this morning. “I wanted to bring him back alive,” he told me, standing stooped with fatigue at the one bar at Agia Marina that propped up swimmers to this formerly perfect bay.

“It is a very sad day; we always hoped we’d find him alive,” he said, his crinkled, sun-damaged face expressive yet hardened to this kind of tragedy. “I was just 50m from that spot most days,” he added, trailing off, and beginning to roll another much-needed cigarette.

It was less than 24 hours after the family’s initial statement, issued by the author’s wife via his agent that described how they had “not given up hope” that Dr Clare Bailey Mosley was forced to make another one.

Her statement, around 4pm, said she didn’t quite know where to begin. “It’s devastating to have lost Michael, my wonderful, funny, kind and brilliant husband,” she wrote. “We had an incredibly lucky life together. We loved each other very much and were so happy together. I am incredibly proud of our children, their resilience and support over the past days.”

The couple’s four children – now in their twenties and thirties – had flown out on day two to join an extensive search party which included their mother and the mayor of Symi’s daughter, although it was the mayor himself who was eventually part of the group who found him.

“My family and I have been hugely comforted by the outpouring of love from people from around the world,” she added as the shock rippled quickly through the small island.

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