THE son of a missing Hove man has celebrated his father's vibrant life as a lover of pubs, politics and people.

A large search operation for father-of-three Gareth Jones was scaled down yesterday after police viewed CCTV which appeared to show the 69-year-old and his dog being swept into the sea.

His son, Robbie Jones, issued a heartfelt thank you on behalf of the family to the hundreds of people who helped scour the Brighton and Hove shoreline for Gareth.

The 24-year-old also remembered his dad as a strong and sociable character who "had time for everyone".

The Argus: Search efforts on Saturday night to find Hove man Gareth JonesSearch efforts on Saturday night to find Hove man Gareth Jones

He said: "He was incredibly sociable and loved visiting pubs - he would call it 'social research'.

"And he always had time for people. He was so non-judgemental, he had time for everyone.

"The Watchmaker's Arms was his local and he was very into his real ales. 

"He absolutely loved that place - called it his second home. He would sometimes come home and cook dinner, then head back over there.

"When we were searching over the weekend we came across people we didn't even know who would tell us, 'I know your dad'.

"And people from the Watchmaker's also came out in force."

Gareth was born in Cardiff and grew up in the Welsh capital before making his way east.

He was a self-employed management consultant, but had previously worked as a lecturer at universities in several countries as well as being the head of HR at the BBC.

The Argus: Gareth Jones from HoveGareth Jones from Hove

The grandfather-of-two was also a keen tennis player, dog-walker and an active member of the Labour Party. 

"He was an ideas man," Robbie said.

"It was only last week he was taking part in a Labour Party branch meeting on Zoom.

"He was very into his politics and was very active in the party, canvassing for Hove and Portslade MP Peter Kyle at general elections and always knocking on doors - not an armchair critic."

Gareth's family reported him missing on Saturday afternoon after he did not return from a dog walk with his cockapoo Connie in Portslade at about 1pm.

Robbie remembered his dad saying he was taking a short walk to catch a break in the rain, with Gareth making a "vague comment" about being back in time to watch the Albion game at 3pm.

But he did not return.

After a time, with Gareth's phone going straight to voicemail, Robbie and his mum (Gareth's wife) Shirley Neal went down to Fish, a fishmonger in Basin Road South, knowing this was where he had planned to go for his walk.

They saw his car was there, but neither Gareth nor his dog could be found.

"Then we started to become panicky," Robbie said.

The Argus: Gareth Jones' brown cockapoo ConnieGareth Jones' brown cockapoo Connie

After contacting emergency services, Robbie, along with his sisters Rhian, 33, and Gemma, 30, worked to coordinate search efforts.

These began on Saturday evening, continuing until the early hours before resuming at first light yesterday.

"The amount of people who came out was amazing to see," Robbie said.

Hundreds of people of all ages headed down to Hove seafront to help with the search.

The Argus: The search in Hove on Saturday nightThe search in Hove on Saturday night

"There were people from the tennis club, teenagers who he had helped write their dissertations, people from the Labour Party," Robbie said.

But, shortly after 3pm, two police officers gathered Gareth's family at their home in Hove and told them the search was being scaled down.

Police had seen CCTV which appeared to show the 69-year-old and his dog Connie being swept into the sea in Hove.

Now, the huge number of people who knew and loved Gareth have rallied around his family to pay tribute to him and offer their support.

The Argus: The search in Hove on Saturday nightThe search in Hove on Saturday night

"We want to thank everyone for their comments, it has been incredible," Robbie said.

"This morning we received some croissants and a card from his favourite bakery, Hove Patisserie.

"He loved his bread, and also always tried to support local businesses wherever he could.

"And the Watchmaker's has also posted on their Facebook page.

"There have been so many messages.

"Dad believed we, people, are better together than alone when sorting out big issues.

“I think that’s been reflected by the amount of people whose lives he has impacted positively.”

Robbie said his dad was “never afraid to talk about the difficult things", and if he heard an example of discrimination in conversation he would be the first to call it out.

“My friends will really miss going to the pub with him and having a bit of banter as well,” Robbie said.

“They have come round to the house before just to see him, which I think says a lot about him.

“He was someone people went to. For help applying to university with a personal statement, a question at work and personal stuff as well.

We have had the worst news 💔 Please stand down all search efforts. Thank you everyone for all of your help and support. We will need you all more than ever now. Lots of love from us 3 and mum xxx 😘

Posted by Rhian Jones on Sunday, January 17, 2021


“My dad would make sure we were stocked up on beers and get out a cheese board if someone came over. He had time for everyone.

“When he asked, ‘How’s your family?’, he meant it and really cared about the answer.

“He really cared about people, and was always there for those who needed support.”

After police delivered the news that the search was being scaled down yesterday, Gareth’s daughter Rhian posted on social media to thank the hundreds of people who had helped with efforts.

She said: “We have had the worst news. Please stand down all your search efforts.

“Thank you everyone for all of your help and support. We will need you all more than ever now.”