TRIBUTES have been paid to a popular music shop owner who has died at the age of 44.

David Edkins, who established the Top Sounds music shop in Newgate Street, Bishop Auckland, ten years ago, was described as a "true gentleman".

He was found dead by his brother, Jeremy, who went looking for him 20 minutes after he had gone upstairs in his shop for his lunch on Tuesday.

Mr Edkins, who lived in Etherley Lane, Bishop Auckland, started Top Sounds after he finished playing music professionally in London.

He was well-liked and established a great rapport with his customers.

His brother said: "We had 6,000 mail order customers and he knew a lot of them personally.

"People used to ask for him and he had a lot of good contacts in the town.''

Mr Edkins was a member of Bishop Auckland Rotary Club and a keen churchgoer, attending St Paul's Church, Hunwick.

His love of music continued through his classical guitar playing. He recently received qualifications from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, in London. One of his ambitions was to work towards gaining more qualifications in classical guitar.

Unmarried, he came from a close-knit family and was a loving son and brother. He was devoted to his godson, and niece and nephew.

His brother said: "He was very fond of our family. I think he will be very sadly missed by everyone.''

Traders in Bishop Auckland were stunned by news of his death.

Claire Dowson, from Cameo Fine Arts, said nearby shop owners all got on very well.

She said: "He was the perfect gentleman and a really charming man. He always had a smile on his face and asked how you were.''

Peter McCormick, from the In Sounds music shop, said: "I would like to express my deepest sympathies to his family, especially at this time.''

Mr Edkins' funeral takes place at St Paul's Church, Hunwick, on Saturday, at 10.15am.