A man who had to retire after having major heart surgery put his life on the line to rescue a woman drowning in the Thames.

Francis Spencer, 61, who also has deformed hands, jumped into the river in Ham on July 2, after a passing jogger spotted a woman in the water.

He said: "I was having my lunch at the time on the other side of the river. I heard someone on the other bank shouting out for help, saying that someone was in the water."

Mr Spencer, who runs Hammertons Ferry in Ham and lives in Isleworth, quickly motored his ferry across the river and, asking his daughter to take the wheel, jumped into the water.

"By the time I arrived, a lady in red and the jogger had already jumped into the water to help her. We kept her afloat with life rings from the ferry, which we put under her arms and back. She was fully-dressed and quite heavy. She was unconscious by this point, but then she suddenly coughed up a lot of water, so we knew she was still alive," he said.

After several minutes, a lifeboat arrived from Teddington and crew members lifted the woman out of the water. She was then taken to hospital by ambulance, where she is believed to be in a stable condition.

After refusing treatment from paramedics, Mr Spencer and the mystery lady in red got back on the ferry and crossed to the other side of the river.

Mr Spencer, who retired from his job as stage manager at Brunel University at the age of 50, after undergoing major heart surgery, said: "The lady in red then went home. She said she lived nearby. I had a cup of tea and then got back to work. It never crossed my mind that I might be in danger. I jumped in on instinct really, anybody would do the same."