THE body of a young Southampton man who fled police more than two months ago was found still handcuffed in a river.

The 22-year-old, named locally as Reece Hillier, ran off after being detained by officers in the city on January 12, during an alleged drugs probe.

His body was found handcuffed in the River Itchen near Riverside Park on Sunday.

Speaking to national media, the family branded the force a “disgrace” and said they want answers.

A spokesman for Hampshire police said an internal investigation into the matter has been launched.

It is not clear whether the young father fell in the water during his escape from the police.

But officers said his death is not being treated as suspicious.

Yesterday bunches of flowers were left at the spot where his body was found.

His girlfriend Brittany Bellows paid tribute to him on social media.

She said: “Words cannot even describe how I’ve been feeling today, not only did I lose my boyfriend but my best friend. We had our ups and downs like every couple does but I’ve never loved someone as much as I did you!

"From the moment we got together we was stuck at the hip.

"I knew something was wrong when you didn’t get in contact with any of us.

“You're finally reunited with your dad,watching over all of us. Cannot believe you’ve been taken away from me so soon, all the things we planned we will no longer be able to see through.

"A part of you will always be with me and I know you will always be by my side. No one thought we would stay together but we proved them wrong!

"We clicked and were there for each other, through our good and bad times.Thinking about all your family and friends today.

"We love you so much! Rest in peace baby. Until we meet again love you forever and always.”

Other tributes from social media have also flooded in.

In the on-line comments Reece was said to be much-loved and a “funny lad”.

As previously reported, the body was found shortly before 7pm and the park was cordoned off.

Southampton resident Gary Fussell, said he was magnet fishing in the river on Sunday and claimed he saw “something which looked like a body” floating in the river and phoned the police.

A Hampshire police spokesman said: “We were called at 6.19pm on Sunday 17 March, after the body of a man was located in the River Itchen at Woodmill, Southampton.

“Identification has now taken place and we can confirm that the body is of a 22-year-old man from Southampton.

“We can confirm that he was handcuffed, having been detained by police in Southampton on 12 January.

“Initial enquiries suggest the body had been in the water for some time.

“The death is not being treated as suspicious at this time.

“An internal review is ongoing and a file is being prepared for the coroner.”

It is understood an appeal to help find the man after he went missing was not sent out to the media.

Hampshire police were unable to give further details and when asked how long the body had been in the river and why the man was arrested in January, the force said it would not be making any further comments as an internal review was ongoing.

A spokesman for the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said: “The IOPC received a referral from Hampshire Police following the discovery of a body on Sunday 17 March.

"Following an assessment it was decided that Hampshire Constabulary should conduct a local investigation.”