AN investigation was under way last night after one of the North-East’s most senior police officers was found dead near a railway bridge.

Emotional tributes were paid to Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Swinson, the head of crime at Cleveland Police, following the discovery.

Temporary Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer spoke of the shock and sadness when officers and staff heard of the death yesterday morning.

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The 47-year-old’s body was discovered at 9.20am in Yarm.

Police said the circumstances are being investigated, but are not believed to be suspicious.

He leaves a wife and two children, a 12-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter, who were being comforted by family and friends last night.

Mrs Cheer said: “I had spoken to him [Stewart] recently and he was fine. He had been off for two or three weeks – off ill.

“I spoke to him about when he was coming back and what we were going to do together and there was nothing to indicate that there was anything wrong.”

Det Chief Supt Swinson, who planned to retire at the end of the year after 30 years’ service, had worked across all four districts and had helped to shape many fledgling careers, she said.

“I’ve only worked here for six months, but I think I got to know him quite well. When you’re dealing with some of the most difficult instances and jobs you need to get to know each other to trust each other,” she said.

Det Chief Supt Swinson replaced Mark Braithwaite as head of crime operations in May 2010, having previously been district commander for the Redcar and Cleveland district since 2007.

In his 30 years in the force, his roles ranged from an officer on the beat in Stockton through various posts in CID, uniform and specialist roles.

However, it was his compassionate approach to policing that had a positive effect on officers who served with him, according to Mrs Cheer.

“I was talking to an inspector who said that he would never have made it to inspector without Stewart’s nurturing, cajoling and encouragement,”

she said.

“It will take a few days for the news to properly sink in with the many people who knew and respected him – words can’t really describe how everyone is feeling at the moment and our thoughts are with his family at this tragic time.”

Cleveland Police Authority chairman Stuart Drummond said: “Everyone involved with the force and the authority and, of course, the many members of the public who had come into contact with him during his career will feel deep shock at the death of someone admired for his commitment to serving the public.”