THE town centre death of a 38-year-old man is not being treated as suspicious, police have confirmed.

A crime scene investigation was set up in Bishop Auckland early this morning after the discovery of a body near Newgate Street at around 5.10am.

The area was cordoned off after the alarm was raised by a woman on her way to work at a betting shop in the town.

She said she noticed the man when a dog started barking at her in the Morrison’s car park, opposite the British Heart Foundation.

She realised he was under some clothes in the car park and she phoned the police when she got to work.

She said: “I was on my way to work. The dog barked at me and I realised someone had collapsed.

“If the dog hadn’t been there, I would have thought it was a pile of rags.

“It was a shock seeing someone. It’s a strange place for someone to be sat. So I realised it was someone who needed help.

“Putting myself first, in case they were on drugs and they knew I was going to work with the keys, I waited until I was at work to ring the police.”

She added: “It was a bit of a shock. Before I came out of work the police rang me and when I came out they had put a blanket over the person.”

A spokesperson for North East Ambulance Service  said efforts were made to save the man's life but there was nothing they could do.

She said: "We were called this morning at 5:37am to a man who was reported to be unconscious not breathing. 

"CPR was in progress by Police at the scene.  We sent two ambulances to the incident but unfortunately the man passed away despite attempts to resuscitate him.  Our thoughts are with his family and friends."

Durham Constabulary has said the man’s death is not the subject of a criminal investigation, but an inquest into the circumstances is expected to be held.

A force spokesman said: “Police received a call at around 5.25am this morning reporting concerns for an individual near Newgate Street, Bishop Auckland.

“Officers and paramedics attended and located a 38-year-old man who was unresponsive.

“First aid was performed, but sadly the man was pronounced dead at the scene.

“His death is not being treated as suspicious, and a file is being prepared for the coroner.”