THE man whose body was discovered on the banks of the River Exe almost seven months ago has finally been identified by police.
And his devastated family described him as a "popular, lovely and friendly" character after officers broke the news.
The man has been named as Clifford John Thorne, known as John to his friends and family.
His family placed the 67-year-old on the national missing persons list after he went missing from his home in Oxford just over a year ago.
His death is not thought to be suspicious. But it is still not known how his body came to be washed up on the banks of the River Exe between Exmouth and Lympstone in July last year.
Mr Thorne's partner Giulia Grassi, 63, and his son Kelvin Thorne, 41, have been left distraught by the news of his death.
Giuila said: "John was always a popular person who made friends with everyone. He was always happy to talk to anyone he met including complete strangers while on holiday or wherever we were.
"He was such a lovely person and just the best. It is a sad loss to hear of his death for both me and the family."
Kelvin said: "Everyone, no matter who he met, got on well with him. He was the type of character that was everybody's friend.
"The whole family are devastated not only that his life has come to an end, but how it ended with not knowing his last movements. He will be greatly missed by everyone and will always be loved."
Officers hope that the release of his photograph can throw new light on the mystery. Detective Chief Inspector Brett Mitchell said the team was focusing its investigation on trying to find out how Mr Thorne died.
He said: "The important thing is giving the family the answers about what happened to John and how he ended up in the water in Exmouth."
As a result of reports in the Echo and ongoing police enquiries, dozens of people contacted police with information.
The team of officers working on the case for more than six months have maintained throughout their investigation how important support from the public has been.
An Evo-fit image of the man was issued to "jog people's memories" and detectives have said this boosted the public's response.
Read how the mystery of the man in the Exe unravelled hereRead more: http://www.thisisexeter.co.uk/mystery-man-Exe-unravelled/story-18076842-detail/story.html#ixzz2KCYN9EGU Follow us: @thisis_exeter on TwitterTimeline of events leading up to the identification:18/07/12: Body is found in River Exe ‘POLICE cordoned off part of the River Exe estuary bank after the discovery of a body in the river. The male body was discovered at around 8.30am on Wednesday, July 18’02/08/12: Appeal to identify river body‘POLICE have renewed their appeal to the public to help them identify a man whose body was recovered from the River Exe.’16/08/12: Police pin hopes on e-fit to identify body in river‘Officers from Exmouth CID have issued an e-fit image of the man to try to find people who may recognise him and help them locate his next of kin.The man's death is not being treated as suspicious. Detectives believe appealing to people to get in touch with information could be the only way to solve the mystery.’23/08/12: Police step up efforts to identify man's body‘FORENSIC tests may help police identify a man whose body was discovered on the banks of the River Exe more than five weeks ago.’30/08/12: Police focus on resort in bid to identify body‘POLICE are focussing their investigations on the Exmouth area in their bid to identify a man whose body was found washed up on the banks of the River Exe six weeks ago.’01/11/12: Police fail to solve the mystery of river Exe death‘SENIOR police officers are reviewing the case surrounding the identification of a man whose body was washed up on the banks of the River Exe almost four months ago.’06/12/12: Police: Only public can solve Exe body mystery ‘A tidal report revealed the man, whose body was discovered early in the morning on Wednesday, July 18, entered the water between Exmouth Marina and Lower Halsdon Farm, where he was found.’06/02/12: Body in Exe is finally identified as Clifford John Thorne