THE body of a Shrewton pub landlord who is believed to have disappeared with £29,000 of villagers’ Christmas thrift club savings has been found.

Malcolm Levesconte, 59, was last seen at the Royal Oak pub on December 9 and an international manhunt was launched to try to find him.

His body was found in the sea near Dover on Christmas Eve and was formally identified on Monday.

A statement issued by Wiltshire Police said: “Detectives were able to confirm that Mr Levesconte booked a return ferry ticket to St Malo in France that same evening (December 9) and boarded a ferry at Portsmouth.

“During their enquiries they became increasingly concerned for Mr Levesconte and the possibility that he may have jumped off the ferry as they were not able to confirm that he had left the ferry in St Malo.

“On December 24, Kent Police informed Wiltshire detectives that a body had been found in the sea near to Dover. “Tests have confirmed that this body was that of Mr Levesconte.”

Mr Levesconte vanished after it was discovered that the money 61 families had saved in the thrift club was missing.

Some of the victims had saved more than £2,000 with the club and feared they would have to “cancel Christmas” but a huge outpouring of public sympathy followed the publication of their story in the Journal and people across the world sent donations to raised the £29,000 in just a few days.

Mr Levesconte's death is not being treated as suspicious and a file will now be prepared by Wiltshire Police on behalf of the coroner. An inquest will be held into his death at a date to be confirmed.