A LARGE-SCALE search was launched through the evening after a swimmer was reported to be in difficulties.

Thames Coastguard, Southend Coastguard rescue team, three Southend RNLI boats and the RAF rescue helicopter scoured the seas from 6pm to dusk yesterday to try and trace the swimmer.

They were reported in trouble off the beach near Pebbles Two Kiosk in Marine Parade.

The RNLI rushed to the original location where members of the public had seen the swimmer. A second and third crew immediately made their way to the pierhead boathouse to launch the Atlantic 75 lifeboat and the second inshore lifeboat.

With ebbing tide and wind factors taken into consideration, a search pattern was set up with the inshore lifeboats searching closer into the shore from the pier, east, towards Barge Pier in Shoebury, with particular attention being paid to moorings and boats.

The Atlantic 75 covered deeper water from the pier, east towards Barge Pier. The RAF helicopter, from Wattisham Airfield, Suffolk, was also on scene and searched around the pier, east to Shoebury.

As the tide went out the RNLI’s hovercraft replaced the first inshore lifeboat to search mudflats and moorings.

Meanwhile the coastguard officers checked with the public about what they saw to check it wasn’t a hoax.

But nothing was found. The lifeboats and helicopter stood down at about 8pm while the search and rescue hovercraft carried on until 9.15pm.

Essex Police said no one had been reported missing to them.