MYSTERY surrounds the death by hanging of a popular North-East soldier only two weeks before he was due home on leave from Iraq.

Yesterday, the parents of Private Mark Dobson paid tribute to the "perfect son" they described as a fitness fanatic who loved his family and the Army and "would give 100 per cent to everything he did".

Jean and Arthur Dobson, from Darlington, said they had no reason to believe that their 41-year-old son would have committed suicide.

Mrs Dobson 64, said: "He was perfectly happy. We don't know the reasons, everyone in Iraq is as stunned as we are."

Mr Dobson, 66, said: "He had so much to live for, so much to come home to and he was so loved.

Pte Dobson was in the Territorial Army and serving in Iraq with the Tyne Tees Regiment. He spoke to his parents last Thursday, but on Easter Monday he was found hanged at his barracks in Basra air station, in Iraq.

He was to return home on leave on April 14 and finish his tour of duty at the end of next month.

Mr Dobson praised the Army for the way they had handled the tragedy and said the family had been offered a lot of support.

Pte Dobson owned a flat in Darlington, and worked as an ambulance driver in Newcastle. He had been hand picked to go Iraq, where he was a platoon medic.

Mrs Dobson said: "Mark didn't have a bad bone in his body and we know he hasn't done this to hurt anybody.

"Everybody loved him, he had many friends and was a quiet and gentle lad. He loved his life."

"He was just the perfect son," said Mr Dobson.

Pte Dobson's twin sisters, Jayne and Karen, 39, said: "Mark was a fantastic brother and a best friend and we will both miss him so much."

Mrs Dobson said: "We are a smallish family, but we have always been together. Mark was a hero to his three nephews and they thought the world of him."

Lieutenant Colonel Ian McFarlane, commanding officer of the Tyne-Tees Regiment, said: "Pte Dobson always had a valuable contribution to make. He was a tremendously effective team member and could always be relied upon to give a full 100 per cent in anything he was tasked to do."

A full investigation is under way.