STREET pastors plan to patrol the city's streets every night to keep students safe - as one man came forward to tell his story of how he almost drowned in the river.

His story has chilling similarities to that of 18-year-old student Tom Jones, whose body was found in the river a week after he went missing on his way home from a night out in the city centre.

The man, from St John's, who asked not to be named, has written a letter to Tom's parents to share his experience.

In it, he says one night after drinking heavily when he was also 18, he “ended up in the river” in roughly the same spot Tom likely fell in around the north of the footbridge on the St John's side.

He said he doesn’t remember how he fell in but does remember “hauling myself out of the concrete riverbank” opposite the rowing club around the bottom of the footbridge.

The side he fell in was very steep and covered in brambles, while his clothes were wet and weighing him down, he remembered.

He therefore decided to swim across the river to where the bank is lowered for boats, which he thought was a good idea at the time because he was a strong swimmer.

“Halfway across, the undercurrents are very strong,” he continued. “I made the split-second decision to lose my jacket and I am convinced that I would have drowned if I hadn’t.

“I was able to make it to the other bank, just. I dragged myself out and lay on the steps exhausted for an hour or more.”

He believes Tom may have attempted the same swim after stumbling into the river, but with a tragic end.

Tom went missing on his way home from a night out in the city centre and was last seen on CCTV walking near to the riverside in Hylton Road.

His body was found in the Severn after a week-long search.

A coroner gave an open verdict into his death, saying there was no way of knowing for sure what had happened to him but the inquest into his death heard police believe he may have accidentally slipped into the river - possibly after going to investigate a cry for help.

Retired Worcester Detective Chief Inspector Jerry Reakes-Williams, who coordinates the Street Pastor patrols, has said the group wants to increase its patrols from just Saturday nights to seven days a week.

He said the extra patrols would continue to focus on the city centre and include the riverside areas. The charity also wants to have extra volunteers out on the street during the busy student nights.

Mr Reakes-Williams said: "We’ve had reports of people who live near the river reporting shouts from people in possible distress, and we respond to any information, working with other authorities such as the police.

"We’ll continue to do everything we can to look after the vulnerable."

Currently, a pool of 25 volunteers rotate to form a group of four who walk the streets. Each team member carries with them a small bag containing flip flops, a thermal blanket and water to offer to anyone in need.

The team also plays a big role in keeping an eye on Worcester’s homeless population.

Mr Reakes-Williams said: "We know many of the homeless by name. We stop, have a chat and hand out food and drink."

Pastors also help people who are incapable of getting home after drinking too much.

Mr Reakes-Williams added: "We’re not a taxi service but we can link them up with friends, call them a taxi or provide someone to listen to them."

Harley Hetherington, a close friend of Tom’s and fellow University of Worcester student, who launched the Find Jonah Facebook page in the days after he went missing, praised the idea.

“It allows for a more relaxed night out because you’re not worrying about getting home safely. It’s the same with parents – I know my mum worries,” he said.

“If people are on the streets looking out for us, it stops a lot of things happening.

“Particularly people that are new to the area, they won’t necessarily be aware of the dangerous spots, and there’s more chance of something happening if you are unfamiliar on a night out."

Asked if the university has changed its approach to student safety since Tom’s death, Harley said: “It’s the usual message – stay with your mates, look after each other. It’s still great to be here, doing my course – it’s a great atmosphere.”

Harley was keen to put the tragic death of his lifelong friend into perspective.

“It’s one of those incidents that you don’t ever think will happen to you or someone you know. But it’s not like it’s happening once a month. People are going on nights out all the time.”

Referring to the inquest, in which senior coroner Geraint Williams cried as he gave his verdict, Harley said: “I think it shows how much what happened affected everyone. Tom was very young, if it was an 80-year-old man, it may not have had the same impact. But this brought everyone together.”

Worcester Street Pastors belong to the Ascension Trust, the governing body of the Pastors. They are funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner, and gain support from churches as well as individual donations from the public.

The first group was founded in Brixton, London in 2003 by Lee Isaac and since then, some 12,000 volunteers have been trained to work in towns and cities across the U.K.

Volunteers are welcome from people who have belonged to a Christian church for at least a year, are happy to undergo training and background checks and are over the age of 18.

Anyone who would like to be involved can visit the Trust’s website at