A CHARITY appeal has been launched in memory of a much-loved deputy headteacher of a private school whose body was found on a North-East beach.

Mark Bushnell, who was deputy head at the 600-year-old Durham School, left his family home in Durham City on the morning of Sunday, March 9, saying he was going to a launderette as their washing machine had broken down.

He then disappeared, sparking a major police search which only ended when the 50-year-old father-of-three’s body was found on a beach at Blackhall Rocks, east Durham, two weeks later.

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Now his former colleagues have begun a charity appeal in his honour – already raising more than £1,500 for the NSPCC children’s charity, armed forces charity Help for Heroes and the Langley Foundation, which offers bursaries to help poorer children attend Durham School.

Jonathan Webb, the school’s deputy head, said: “Everyone at Durham School has been very moved by the generosity and support shown for these charities by the school community and the public in memory of Mr Bushnell.

“It is a very fitting tribute to a man who cared passionately about supporting and protecting others.”

Mr Bushnell’s wife Joanna said the three charities were very close to her husband’s heart and her family was very grateful for the support shown to them by the school, the local community and the media.

“The kindness and generosity of people never ceases to amaze us and we know that Mark would be comforted in this knowledge,” she said.

A memorial tree is to be planted overlooking the school’s rugby and cricket pitches, where Mrs Bushnell said her husband of 29 years “spent countless enjoyable hours supporting the pupils including his own children”.

Following an inquest into Mr Bushnell’s death held last month, the Durham coroner Andrew Tweddle recorded an open verdict.

There was no evidence he took his own life or that he died in an accident and the police ruled out any suspicious circumstances.

At the time, Mrs Bushnell said his death had been dreadful and unfathomable.

To support the charity appeal, visit nspcc.tributefunds.com or bmycharity.com/markbushnell or email: a.petty@durhamschool.co.uk