TRIBUTES HAVE been paid by friends and family to the recent death of 22-year-old University of York student Robert Ailwood.
Ailwood, a third-year Archaeology student, was discovered dead in the River Foss on Tuesday October 17 following a massive police hunt of the York region after his initial disappearance on a night out with friends the previous Wednesday.
Close friends have since described their “shock” at the death of a fellow student who was “always up for a party” and was a “very nice guy”.
Tributes have been paid to student Robert Ailwood
Katie Elliot, also a third-year Archaeology student said “Rob was very kind and funny. He enjoyed a good night out. He loved York and he loved his long-term girlfriend. Everyone in our year will miss having Rob around”.
Ailwood’s father, also called Robert, spoke to his son for the final time on the day of his own birthday, two days before his disappearance. Speaking at an appeal for information before his son’s body was discovered he described him as “more than happy – he was over the moon.”
“He enjoyed York very much [and] had no financial worries…there were no problems.” Adding “how would you cope if you lost a son? It is very hard to describe…My guts are in my mouth”.
York University Students Union President, Rich Croker, who attended the funeral held in late October, also spoke of his distress at the tragedy. “Unfortunately I didn’t know him; I attended the funeral as a representative of the student body, in the same way university staff attended. I can tell you it was a very nice service and it was clear from those who attended that he was held in the highest regard by his friends and the academics at this university.”
“The overriding message from those who spoke was that he was a warm and generous person who will be sorely missed by those who knew him”.
Ailwood was initially reported missing by his girlfriend after he failed to return to his home on Wednesday 11 October after a night-out with her and other friends. He was last seen in St Sampson’s Square in the city centre at approximately 11:40pm when he left the group and walked in the direction of his house on Lawrence Street, in the Tang Hall area.
Police discovered during the investigation that an ambulance had been called at 11:55pm after reports of a young man collapsing in Piccadilly, between the centre and his house.
Police divers trawl the Foss as they search for Ailwood after he was reported missing
However, upon attendance the young man was no longer at the scene, and paramedics were unable to locate him. Ailwood’s mobile phone was then found hours later in the same area by a passer-by and handed to friends who were searching for him. Police used the phone in an attempt to trace his whereabouts.
The following day a full-scale search began with local emergency service officers and a specialist 40-man police team including divers searching the York region in an attempt to find Ailwood.
Finally after a six day search, the body of a young man was found in the River Foss near the Blue Bridge next to the Foss Barrier in Fulford on the morning of Tuesday 17 October. A week after the search for the student had began, the body was confirmed to be that of Robert Ailwood aged 22.
An inquest was opened and adjourned into the cause of death on Thursday Octobeer 10 until around Christmas time in order for a proper investigation to be carried out. The coronor involved with the case was unable to disclose whether the circumstances are suspicious.
In recent weeks a funeral service has been held, which was attended by family, close friends, University officials and Ailwood’s long-term girlfriend, a foreign-student. She has since left University and returned home to grieve.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, YUSU Academic and Welfare Officer, Amy Foxton attempted to quell students’ safety fears of going out in the city centre. “I think the [city] is safe, York was voted the safest city this year, we don’t want to scare students but we want to encourage them to look after themselves and each other.“
“The most critical thing is when you are drunk you will not be able to make the most reasonable decisions”.
She also spoke of her opinions of the current efforts being made by the University and YUSU to improve students’ safety, adding “I think we can always do more but we are trying really hard. Telling students not to binge drink wouldn’t work”
Foxton added that she has made efforts to increase student safety by handing out much smaller attack alarms to encourage students to carry them around in case of danger.
By Daniel Whitehead