A LOOK of gratitude after handing sleeping bags to a homeless old couple or baby supplies to a new mother in a war-torn country is all the reward policeman turned aid worker Gordon Bacon has ever needed for his work.

But this week his work was acknowledged with an Honorary Master of Arts degree from Durham University.

Mr Bacon served with Durham police for two decades– from beat officer to CID– and a seven year secondment took him to Honk Kong to investigate corruption.

After leaving the force, with his two daughters at university and few ties keeping him at home in County Durham, he went to work for a UK-based children’s charity in the then war-torn former Yugoslavia.

In 2000, Mr Bacon directed a programme to identify– through DNA– those who died during the conflict, including the Srebrenica massacre in which 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered.

He was later awarded an OBE and presented with the European Commission Task Force Medal for his work in the Balkans during the wars.

As an Emergency Aid worker, Mr Bacon co-ordinated a response in Sri Lanka to the 2004 Tsunami and established an emergency aid programme following the 2008 cyclone in Myanmar.

The 75-year-old, from Ushaw Moor, Durham, said: "I've helped rebuild houses and schools, seen abject poverty and desperate people.

"An old man and his wife lived in a hellish old school in Bosnia, I gave them sleeping bags and they asked how long they could keep them. The look when I said it was theirs was a big reward.

"One Feed the Children scheme I worked on was making boxes for newborns. When you're on a chicken farm which is home to 15,000 refugees and a young girl is lying on the floor with a baby in her arms and one of your boxes– packed by volunteers with donations– it feels good.

"When you've seen that, you don't need much motivation to keep going. It was a great, great background being in the police for so long."

He received the honorary degree at Durham Cathedral yesterday, during the first of two Winter Congregation ceremonies which see more than 1,200 students from 72 countries graduate.

Mr Bacon said: "Durham is my home, I know of the high reputation of Durham University so this is a tremendous honour. Myself, family and friends are absolutely delighted. I'm very humbled and very proud."

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart Corbridge, said: “Congregation marks the end of a very special journey for our students, who, through their commitment, industriousness, and brilliance, go on to do extraordinary things.”