TRIBUTES have flooded in for a former RAF air traffic controller turned councillor who represented his town for nearly 20 years.

Durham County Councillor for Crook Eddie Murphy died surrounded by family on Friday (May 9) after a short illness.

The 69-year-old former Labour man turned Independent had served on Wear Valley District Council since 1995, sitting as chairman from 2005 and 2008, and topped the polls in both the unitary authority elections of 2008 and 2013.

Fellow independent John Shuttleworth from Weardale said Councillor Murphy always stood up for what he believed was right while Bishop Auckland county councillor Sam Zair said he was a “true gentleman” and “great ambassador” for the area.

Coun Murphy, one of three children of Bernard and Ruby Murphy, was born in Peterhead in Aberdeenshire with the family moving to Tow Law when he was young.

His sister Eunice Smith, said he started debating as a boy and was always passionate about helping people.

When he was 15 he joined the RAF as an air traffic controller where he spent 15 years.

He then ran several pubs before returning to County Durham to work for Durham City Council as a welfare officer.

His wife of the past five years Helen said: “It was while working there that he saw how he could change things to make it better for the people of County Durham.

“He could never turn anyone down because he always believed he could help with their problems.”

He vigorously opposed the closures of the A&E unit in Bishop Auckland and Glenholme Leisure Centre and was part of the group hoping to open a new leisure centre in Crook.

Ian Hirst from the group said: “He was honest, reliable, true and passionate about Crook and will be sadly missed.”

Pauline Charlton, chairman of Durham County Council, said he was a much-valued councillor, friend Brian Myers said it was privilege to know him while Dorothy Winter, chairman of Crook Community Partnership, called him a “man of the people for the people”.

He leaves behind siblings Eunice and Ian, wife Helen, children Ian, Neil and Kate, stepchildren Robert and Kathryn and 18-month-old grandson Ollie.

His funeral will be held at St Andrew’s Dawson Street Methodist United Reform Church at 1.45pm on Friday (May 16), mourners are asked to wear something blue.

Family flowers only and donations in lieu are requested for the NSPCC and Cancer Research UK.