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Villagers in Moulton Chapel are devasted after hearing one of their well-loved characters has died while snorkelling in the Maldives.

Stuart Chance’s body was found on Summer Island Village in Ziyaaraifushi in he early hours of Tuesday morning.

It is understood the 34-year-old, who lived in Roman Road and was a popular volunteer at Spalding’s Cancer Research charity shop, was on an annual family holiday.

Summer Island Resort’s assistant manager Mohamed Waheed said: “A tourist who went swimming in the sea has been found dead. Police are now investigating the incident, so we cannot provide any more details.”

Colleagues said yesterday (Wednesday) Mr Chance will be “sorely missed”.

News of the death of Spalding Cancer Research shop’s popular volunteer was broken to other members of staff on Wednesday.

Sasha Darley, manager, said it had been a very difficult morning and volunteers were finding it hard to accept Mr Chance would not be returning to work on Monday.

She said: “Stuart has worked here every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday for the past 10 years.

“Even though he was disabled following two car accidents, nothing was too much trouble for him.

“He was a tremendous help to me when I took this job eight months ago and was fantastic with customers.

“They all chatted to him and I used to ask how did he know so many people. ‘Because I work here,’ he’d say.

“He’d been looking forward to his holiday for months and had been counting the days.

“I can honestly say he was a friend and I can’t believe he is not coming back.”

Volunteer Alison Hills said Mr Chance’s support helped her cope when she started at the shop in February.

She said: “When I thought I couldn’t do something he just put his arm around me and helped me through.

“He was always jolly and so kind. It’s tragic what has happened but at least he was somewhere he loved.”

Joe Tickner, owner of the Jolly Farmer in Moulton Chapel, said villagers were devasted.

Mr Tickner said he had known Mr Chance for 20 years and breaking the news to customers on Tuesday night had been very difficult.

He said: “What can you say? People loved him - he had a heart of gold. Even though he was disabled it didn’t stop him doing things.

“He was at the heart of everything that happened here every Friday and Saturday night and enjoyed playing cards and pool.

“We used to give him some stick about football - he was a Manchester United fan and watched games here.

“Stuart was a tease too - but in a nice way. He was a mate and will be sorely missed.”