A SEARCH and rescue volunteer who assisted in the grim job of searching for wreckage from the Pan Am passenger plane following the Lockerbie disaster is retiring after over 30 years service.

Ian Findlay has served with Teesdale and Weardale Search and Rescue, in County Durham, for 32 years.

Mr Findlay, from Forest-in-Teesdale, joined the service when he began working as conservation officer for the Nature Conservancy Council in 1973.

He was often called out to find stranded school parties and became involved with the Teesdale and Weardale Fell Rescue Association, as it was then known.

During his time as a search and rescue volunteer, Mr Findlay has been involved with several high-profile rescues.

During one, he swam across the River Tees above High Force holding two climbing ropes to abseil down to a man who had lost his footing at the waterfall and was trapped on a ledge.

Unfortunately, the man's two-year-old son, who he had been holding when he fell, did not survive the fall.

For this rescue, Mr Findlay was awarded a bronze medal by the Order of St John.

Local farmers will also miss Mr Findlay's expertise.

During his time with the rescue team, he has helped to retrieve 91 sheep stuck on crags in Weardale and Teesdale.

His technique for rescuing sheep involved getting the animal on its back, tying a rope around its horns and then attaching it to his harness so the sheep hangs between his legs while he lowers it and himself to the ground.

In 1996, Mr Finday received an MBE for his conservation work and will continue to carry out various conservation surveys.

He is also a parish councillor and chairman of the independent monitoring board at Deerbolt Young Offenders Institution, in Barnard Castle.