AN investigation has been launched after hundreds of EU referendum postal voting packs for people living or holidaying abroad have gone missing.

Durham County Council has reported the disappearance of 457 voting packs to the Electoral Commission and Durham Police.

The loss of the papers comes in the wake of a storm of controversy sparked by a Government decision to extend registration for the vote by 48 hours, after the official website crashed on Tuesday in the run-up to the midnight cut off.

Among those affected by the lost ballot papers are Trevor Thompson and his wife Vera, now of Perth, Australia.

Mr Thompson, who hails from Esh and lived in Stanhope before emigrating in 2012, said: “I voted in the referendum in the early 1970s and after spending most of my life living and working under the result of that referendum was passionate about having my vote in the upcoming referendum.

“It looks as if I have been denied this right.”

He added: “Both my wife and myself checked several weeks ago to make sure we were registered to vote on this issue and were assured everything was in hand and we registered. I am fuming over it.”

A Durham County Council spokesman said the 457 postal voting packs sent to overseas destinations were to people living abroad and to those who may have requested one as they will be on holiday during the election.

This is out of a total of 86,216 postal voting packs which were issued collectively across the county. There are 388,000 in the county’s electorate as a whole.

County council referendum counting officer Colette Longbottom, said the authority received a number of telephone calls and emails from overseas electors on Monday (June 6), reporting that postal ballot packs had not been received.

She added: “Following an internal investigation, we concluded that the ballot packs had been printed and issued as planned by our external contractors, but had not been delivered to the recipients."

On Tuesday (June 7) those ballots, which had been issued on May 23, were invalidated and fresh packs re-issued.

“We understand that some of these packs have now been delivered and that the rest should follow in the coming days," she said.

“A process is now in place to ensure that no overseas elector will be able to vote twice. Any overseas elector who votes using both packs will only have the new pack accepted to be counted.

“If any of the invalidated ballot packs from the May 23 batch are used for voting, they will be accepted, so long as the newly-issued pack has not also been used.”

But Mr Thompson said: “Even if the votes packs were sent out on June 7, they will not get to us in time for us to get them back in time for the vote.

"It takes a week or eight days to get here – if all goes well - and the same to get back to Durham if we vote and get it back the same day.”

A spokesman for the Electoral Commission said: “We are satisfied that the team at Durham have done everything to get the issue resolved quickly and effectively.”

A Durham Constabulary spokesman said: “Durham County Council have informed us as a courtesy, but at this stage no police action is required.”