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Jun 20, 2012

Body identified as Irish fan

BYDGOSZCZ, Poland -- A body found floating in a Polish canal has been identified by a family member as that of an Irish soccer fan who came to the country for the European Championship, an official said.

Deputy chief prosecutor Wlodzimierz Marszalkowski told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the family member confirmed the identity of the body as James Nolan, who went missing early Sunday in the northern city of Bydgoszcz. He would not identify the family member, but said it was a close relation.

Documents in Nolan's name were found on the corpse. Marszalkowski said an autopsy would be held on Thursday to establish cause of death.

James Nolan, 21, of Blessington, County Wicklow, disappeared early Sunday in the northern city of Bydgoszcz, sparking a huge search effort in the city. Police divers found a body early Wednesday and authorities were awaiting the arrival of Nolan's father, Jimmy, and other family members later to make a formal identification.

The body was found lying face down in fast-flowing water of the Bydgoszcz Canal and trapped by a weir that runs across it. The canal is an offshoot of the city's Brda River, and brings water for a small hydroelectric plant.

No signs of violence were apparent, Marszalkowski said. Robbery didn't appear to be the motive since 600 zlotys ($200) and a credit card were found on the corpse, he said. An autopsy was planned for Thursday.

Prosecutor Wlodzimierz Marszalkowski said Thursday there is "no other hypothesis than an accident. There are no doubts, no circumstances to suggest otherwise."

The clothing on the body matched a description given by friends of what Nolan was wearing when he went missing, Marszalkowski said.

Police and firefighters, some in boats and others with dogs, had been searching along the river, canal and adjacent waste ground Tuesday and again on Wednesday. Moments before the body was found, two divers in an inflatable dinghy were seen speeding toward the site. A police cordon was quickly set up around the area, which is near a museum and a church.

In a sign of mourning, someone later placed two white candles near the place where the body was found.

Nolan was in Poland for Euro 2012 to follow Ireland, which has now been eliminated from the soccer tournament. He had been traveling with friends in a rented camper van, but was also registered at a hotel on the city's outskirts.

He was last seen visiting local bars after watching televised games in a fan zone Saturday night.

Two of Nolan's travel companions, 22-year-old Aidan Willoughby and 24-year-old Adam Cullen, described him as a "smiley, outgoing person with a very witty sense of humor" and known by the nickname "Jam."

Their group of seven arrived in Bydgoszcz on Saturday to meet with other Irish friends. They watched the Poland-Czech game in town and then went into a market square pub around midnight.

"There we enjoyed drinks with the locals, who had been extremely friendly all night," Nolan's friends said in a statement.

"Around 2 a.m., a member of the group (not James) was involved in a minor altercation with a small group of local men sitting in the bar," the statement said. "The minor altercation ended in a matter of seconds and all involved and the rest of our group remained in the pub. Shortly afterwards, we decided to leave the bar as a number of the group wanted to go home and others went to find a nightclub.

"It appears that Jam left the group or pub alone prior to this. When Jam failed to return to the hotel by late morning and was not contactable, we became extremely concerned and members of the group contacted local police at 2:30 p.m. Others drove and walked around the city area looking for him and contacted hospitals."

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