Villagers in Upavon have paid tribute to three-year-old Jack Rowe who died last Thursday morning – hours after he was found lying face down in the family swimming pool.

A candle is burning in St Mary’s Church in the village in memory of Jack who was airlifted to Southampton Hospital on his third birthday, last Wednesday.

The church was left open over the weekend and a small ornamental tree has been placed at the altar next to a picture of Jack where people can hang messages.

A message from his sister reads: “I love you Jack Rowe you were my favourite brother and always will be my favourite brother Love Ella.”

Another from his grandparents says: “Darling Jack, whose light will never go out. All our love Granny and Grandpa.”

Jane Bradshaw wrote: “I’m so sorry for your loss. You’re all in my thoughts. May Jack rest in peace.”

Jack’s family launched a search in Upavon on Wednesday evening after he was believed to have wandered off towards the River Avon.

Police and villagers joined in the hunt at 7pm but just 20 minutes later jack was found floating in the pool in the garden of the family home.

He was unresponsive and given medical treatment at the scene before being flown to Southampton General Hospital by air ambulance.

But despite the medics best efforts he passed away in the early hours of the following morning.

Jack and Maggie Leach, of Riverside Park, were having a glass of wine in their garden when a woman alerted them that Jack had gone missing so they went down to the river to look for him.

Mr Leach said: “When I went round there he was on the side of the pool and the police were pumping him but there was no response, they couldn’t have done any more than what they did.

“People have done nothing but talk about it, it’s come as such a shock, it’s so tragic. They reckon it’s the worst thing that’s happen to the village.”

His wife, Maggie, said: “I said to one of the police when they took him away in the air ambulance ‘how is he?’ and he just crossed his fingers and so I thought ‘he’ll be fine’ and then we found out it was so sad.

“Everyone’s in shock not knowing what to do or what to say. I think the whole village were brilliant, everyone was in the village looking for him thinking he’d toddled off from the house.

“We’ve all laid flowers and teddy bears have been put outside the door and there’s been a church service.”

The youngster lived at home with his parents, Olivia and Nigel Rowe, who have a daughter Ella and two sons in their 20s.

Russell Appleton, who is on the parish council, said: “I went out of here about ten to seven and there was a lot of activity. At that time outside here the traffic is very, very bad so I donned a high-vis jacket and helped with the control of the traffic coming by.

“All of a sudden we heard the lady of the house who had been looking for him shouted, there was an eerie cry that they’d found the boy in the pool.

“People were trying to involve themselves in helping but there’s only so much one can do, it’s being handled by the experts.

“There is numbness in the village, it’s a tragedy, it’s happened and you can’t turn the clock back.”