A NORTH-EAST solicitor stabbed to death while out jogging was being investigated by police in connection with what is alleged to have been the UK’s biggest mortgage fraud, The Northern Echo can reveal.

Peter Thomas Maine was part of a long-running and complex probe over an alleged £170m “sale-and-rent-back” scam involving Gateshead firms North East Property Buyers and Newcastle Home Loans.

The investigation is believed to cover more than 2,000 mortgage applications.

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An independent tribunal the 56-year-old was also facing – into his conduct as a lawyer – has been stopped following his death near Maiden Castle sports ground, Durham City, on Sunday.

However, Detective Inspector Lyn Peart said the fraud inquiry would continue and a possible link to Mr Maine’s death was being pursued.

More than 48 hours on from the stabbing, DI Peart admitted she was puzzled how the father-of-two, who lived in a £650,000 house on the exclusive gated Wynyard estate, near Stockton, met his death.

Mr Maine parked his black Land Rover Discovery on Old Elvet to go for his regular run at 7.30am and at 7.40am he was caught on CCTV jogging along nearby Territorial Lane.

But what happened during the next 20 minutes remains a mystery, until at 8am a cyclist found Mr Maine on a path a mile away across the River Wear. He had suffered three stab wounds to the chest and was pronounced dead in hospital an hour later.

About 30 police are working on a murder-style inquiry but have not ruled out that Mr Maine took his own life. No suicide note has been found but DI Peart said there was no sign of a disturbance.

“We don’t have a motive for anything at the minute. The circumstances are such that we’re going to have to look at every possibility. We’re puzzled,” she said.

Police are desperate to piece together Mr Maine’s final movements and, following a disappointing response to Monday’s appeal, renewed their plea for anyone in the area between 7.15am and 8.15am to come forward.

They are particularly keen to speak to two campers, a man and a woman in their late teens or early 20s, who are believed to have been picked up by a relative as Mr Maine’s ambulance arrived.

The weapon used to stab Mr Maine remains unknown. Yesterday (Tuesday, September 3), specialist police continued to search a 60m stretch of the River Wear, but DI Peart said nothing significant had yet discovered. The search is expected to continue into tomorrow.

Detectives are also studying CCTV footage and witness statements and appeal posters bearing a photo of Mr Maine have been distributed across the area.

Mr Maine was married to Joanna and had two grown-up daughters, Lucy and Jessica. Earlier this summer, he cycled coast to coast for Cancer Research.

He had been a solicitor for more than 30 years, formerly in criminal law and later in family and personal injury matters.

He had been facing a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal since November 2011, over claims he was involved with a firm he ought to have known was dubious.

Anyone with information on Mr Maine’s death is asked to call Durham Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800-555-111.