A COMMUNITY has been left in shock after a body was found in the search for a serviceman who went missing from his home in Purbeck.

Robert McAvoy, 39, was last seen leaving his home in Wain Road, Bovington, at around 5.10pm on Monday, March 25.

He drove off in his Land Rover after saying he was going to Dorchester.

He was then reported missing at 6.21pm as he had not been heard from since.

Just before 9pm on Monday night, Dorset Police issued an appeal for his whereabouts and said they were becoming “very concerned” for his welfare.

They urged anyone who had seen him or his car to contact police.

A major search was carried out with as many as 100 people from Bovington Camp reportedly assisting to help find Mr McAvoy. The police helicopter also assisted in the search.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, police said a body had been found in a “remote area” of Dorset.

A Dorset Police spokesperson said: “A search of the area was carried out into the night. Very sadly, the body of a man was discovered in a remote area near Crossways.

“Although the body is yet to be formally identified, it is believed to be Robert and his family has been informed. His death is not being treated as suspicious.”

The Armour Centre at Bovington, the British Army’s centre of excellence for training in armoured warfare made the following statement on its official Twitter account. “It is with deep regret and sadness that we announce the death of WO2 Robert ‘Rab’ McAvoy RE. An outstanding instructor and ultimately soldier, friend and comrade to many, he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Emma, family and close friends.”

Members of the armed forces took to social media to share their condolences following the discovery.

All Call Signs, a peer-to-peer app for veterans and serving military personnel, said on Facebook: “Our entire community’s heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends.

“We’re sorry we couldn’t get to you Robert.”

While one of the trustees for The Veterans Charity said on Twitter: “Another member of the Armed Forces died at their own hand yesterday. Please remember Robert McAvoy the latest victim. The battles don’t end when the war is over.”

Veterans Minister and Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood said: “The news of a death of any veteran is always a tragedy.

“I am very sorry to hear Robert McAvoy is no longer with us. I will be looking into the details of this to see if there was more that could have been done to prevent it.”

The MP, who served in the army in the Royal Green Jackets, said a new strategy was in place to help identify early warning signs of combat stress, and to point family and friends to where help can be found.

He said: “My uncle gave no sign there was anything wrong, then took his own life. There are always a lot of complex issues, but I will look at this situation. It is a very sad day.”

A spokesperson from Combat Stress, the leading charity for veterans’ mental health said: “The Combat Stress charity Helpline has a team of specially trained professionals who are available every minute of every day to give confidential advice and support, including how to access mental health services.

“We understand what to do and how to help when someone in the military family is going through a tough time: last year we dealt with 12,000 calls to our Helpline. We know how difficult it can be just to pick up the phone, but we’re here to help at any time, even if it’s just to listen.”

Veterans and their families can call 0800 138 1619. Serving personnel and their families can call 0800 323 4444. Helpline experts are also available by text on 07537 404719 and email at helpline@combatstress.org.uk