The mother of a British diplomat who dived into a river in China to rescue a drowning woman has spoken of her pride in her son.

Prudhoe resident 83-year-old Annabell Ellison has been shocked as footage of her son Stephen’s heroics spread around the world.

More than a million people have now seen the dramatic footage of the rescue, with many praising the former Hexham Grammar School pupil as a hero.

The 61-year-old Chongqing Consul General rescued the 24-year-old student from fast moving waters in a village last Saturday.


However, she wasn’t surprised that he was the first to act.

She said: “I’m immensely proud considering by Monday lunchtime I knew nothing about it!

“He told me on the phone that he had been involved in an adventure.

“It’s amazing how far it has gone. He didn’t tell me when we spoke that he’d dived in!

“It’s just like him. He played it down, he didn’t tell me the whole story.

“People were ringing me up and sending their congratulations, but I hadn’t seen it! ITV were the ones who showed me the footage. I was very emotional.

“Even when I saw his interview on the BBC, he still said he thought he was just the first person to get his shoes off!”


Annabell explained that Stephen’s actions were similar to those of his father.

She felt her late husband would have been delighted at his son’s rescue.

“His dad would have been immensely proud," she said. "The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – his dad was very similar. He often went to help people in the street.

“Sometimes I would turn around and he would be gone, helping someone who had fallen over – I hadn’t even noticed.

“It made last week, which was just going to be another boring lockdown week, a lot more exciting!

“It all came as a great surprise, but a nice one with a happy ending.”

Annabell also revealed that Stephen’s lifesaving skills go back decades, when the family were in Malta.

She added: “He rang me again this weekend and we were reminiscing about when and how he learnt to swim.

“We went with his father’s work to Malta and the apartment had a pool. Within a few days, he was swimming like a fish!

“A young lad who lived in the same apartment block and went to his school taught him lifesaving when he was 11 years old.

“He remembered it all, and to take as much of his clothing off as possible.”

The UK embassy in China also tweeted of their pride for Stephen.

They wrote: “We are all immensely proud of our Chongqing Consul General, Stephen Ellison, who dived into a river on Saturday to rescue a drowning student and swim her to safety.”

Annabell also revealed that the family of the student Stephen rescued have shown their gratitude.

She added: “He did have a meal with the girl that he rescued and her father.

“They were absolutely delightful – they had both written him letters, and he was quite chuffed.

“The local authorities in Chongqing are going to give him a reward of some type – possibly a medal!”

Speaking to ITV, Stephen said his efforts were “nothing special” and he just did the right thing.