Image copyright VIRGINIA NORTHWOOD Image caption Security guards were called to the scene at around 1:30am on Sunday
Armed police have been called to the scene of a cruise ship in the English Channel after a woman fell overboard on Sunday.
Around two dozen officers are combing the waters off the coast of Purfleet, Essex, where passengers feared the worst.
According to the Sun, friends of the woman believe she fell from the Eldorado vessel, which was on a visit to Alton Towers.
It was due to travel on to Southampton on Sunday evening.
However, having heard the news on Monday afternoon that her body had not been recovered, the ship was stopped near the Isle of Wight.
It will now leave Alton Towers at around 2000 GMT and spend up to three days in “man-made mud” on the Isle of Wight.
Image copyright Jeff J Mitchell Image caption The Eldorado boat is due to arrive in Southampton at 2000 GMT
The ship’s conductors say they hope to escort the coastguard to the search area to pick up any debris or evidence.
The Metropolitan Police said officers sent to the scene were in “touch with other authorities”.
Armed coastguard teams scoured the waters before work to bring the ship into Portsmouth Harbour on Monday evening.
It is not known if anyone will be questioned about the woman’s death or whether it is being treated as a suicide.
A hostel for the cruise, Smart House, in Bushey, has its own security guards.
Its manager, Heather McQueen, told The Sun security guards were called to the scene and had been filming with the security camera in front of the £255m vessel.
A spokesman for the French company that owns the ship, CMA CGM, said that their “attention” was now on a safety alert at anchor.
He said: “The ship is taking measures to continue manoeuvring in light of the incident.”
According to the ship’s website, the vessel has 23 restaurants, three bars, three gyms, one spa, three pools, three car parks and swimming pools.
On its Facebook page, Bournemouth University said it welcomed participants on the cruise, which was due to dock on Saturday evening.
The island to be visited, the island of Basilique de Fontenay, was designated an official designated world heritage site in 1984 and is home to many Roman ruins.
In August 2011, two men drowned while having a swim off the island after spending two days trying to reach it without success.
At the time of their deaths, they had been on a diving trip on the island.
The Department for Transport says passengers are being asked to file their own travel details and inform cruise operators of their concerns if they wish to do so.
Trafford Council Council and Cheshire Police have said they are liaising with CMA CGM but have no information about the disappearance.
A spokesman for CMA CGM, which owns the ship, said: “Safety and security of passengers, crew, crew families and our guests is the highest priority and CMA CGM has robust processes in place to assess and respond to such situations.
“Our crew worked diligently to ensure the vessel was kept at a safe speed throughout yesterday.”