A couple found dead near a swollen river may have drowned trying to rescue a pet dog.

The body of the first victim, named locally as mother-of-one Alicia Williams, 25, was found on a sandbank in the River Clywedog, near Wrexham, North Wales, shortly after 5pm on Wednesday.

Police launched a search of the river after witnesses told them a young couple were seen walking "four or five" dogs in the area a short time before. More than 20 volunteers, including fire and mountain rescue crews, took part in the operation until the second body was found nearby during the early hours of Thursday.

The man was named locally as Ms Williams's boyfriend, David Platt, 25, who worked at a local farm building children's play pens. North Wales Police said all the couple's dogs had been recovered safely.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Pierce said: "The two deaths are unexplained but the likely scenario is at the moment that there was unfortunately a tragic accident. We believe the couple were here with dogs and at the time the river was swollen. The river level was at a higher level than it is at the moment."

The force is appealing for witnesses to the tragedy as they try to piece together how the couple died. Mr Pierce said: "It's speculation to say whether or not the dogs have gone into the river and one or both of the couple have gone in to save the dogs. We haven't got a witness to confirm that."

A post-mortem examination is expected to take place on Friday morning to establish the cause of death, he said, adding that the local coroner had been informed.

Witness Michael Morgan, who works at a car wash close to the entrance to Erddig Country Park, said he was alerted by a whippet which came into the car wash. He said he took the dog out to locate the owner and it lead him to three more dogs waiting by a Citroen Picasso. Two of the dogs were wet up to their heads.

"As I turned around an ambulance appeared and the lady said there was somebody hurt and asked for help to get across the field. So I went ahead of the vehicle opening the gate. As I got past the third gate, that's when I saw a lady waving her hands and then across from her was the body lying on the grass on her back."

Police activity in the area around the river has ceased but cordon tape remained in place to stop the public crossing into a field adjacent to the bank. Two bunches of flowers had been left at the side of the gate.