Manchester Police chief constable found dead after hill-walking trip in Snowdonia

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's most senior police officers has been found dead after taking a hill-walking trip in North Wales.

Michael Todd, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, was discovered at the bottom of a cliff in Snowdonia yesterday afternoon.

Speaking outside the force's headquarters, Greater Manchester's Deputy Chief Constable, Dave Whatton, said Mr Todd, who had three children, had spent Monday, his day off, walking in Snowdonia. After becoming concerned for his welfare during Monday night, a search was launched. Yesterday afternoon, his body was retrieved by a Mountain Rescue team.

In his statement Mr Whatton said: "I believe it is Michael. As you can imagine, all of his friends and colleagues are extremely upset. Our hearts and thoughts are with his family, and I would ask that they be left in peace to come to terms with this."

Sources at Greater Manchester Police said that among items found on the body were notes to his family and loved ones.

Telephone conversations with friends shortly before his disappearance are said to have indicated Mr Todd was experiencing personal problems.

Mr Todd's wife and three children, twin teenage sons and a teenage daughter – who apparently lived in Nottinghamshire apart from Mr Todd, and saw him at weekends – were being comforted by relatives last night.

Mr Todd, 51, was a high-flier and was widely tipped as a likely future Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. He started his career with Essex Police in 1976 and later served in Nottingham and London before becoming Manchester's chief constable in 2002. He was immediately charged with the task of turning his failing force around. GMP was named the worst-performing force in Britain in 2003 and Mr Todd himself claimed that Inspector Morse fans would make better policemen than some of his officers.

His notable achievements included the arrest of 28 of the North-west force's most wanted criminals in one 12-month period. Never afraid of the limelight, his most high-profile recent appearance was when he allowed himself to be hit by a Taser stun gun in order to demonstrate the weapon's effectiveness as a non-lethal alternative to firearms.

Yesterday, in the hours following the announcement of his death, colleagues and political figures paid tribute to a "decent and committed policeman".

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said Mr Todd made a "significant contribution to policing". He said: "I am shocked and saddened to hear reports of the death of Michael Todd. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues in the Greater Manchester force at this time.

"Michael held a variety of posts and ranks. In London, this culminated in him being assistant commissioner for territorial policing and leading the important fight against street crime. He was held in high esteem and I and colleagues who knew him are truly shocked."

The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: "Chief Constable Todd has had a long and distinguished career in various forces and has contributed greatly to the fight against crime and terrorism. My thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues."

The former home secretary, David Blunkett, added: "Michael Todd was a decent and committed policeman who did a first-class job in difficult circumstances. His death is a real tragedy and I feel very sad to hear of his loss. My thoughts are with his family at this time."

The president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Ken Jones, said: "Mike has made an enormous contribution to policing in Manchester and nationally throughout his distinguished career. He will be greatly missed by chief officer colleagues and all who worked with him."

A fast-tracked officer with an impressive intellectual ability

Michael Todd began his career with Essex Police in 1976 where he served as both a uniformed officer and a detective before moving to the Metropolitan Police, where he worked in Bethnal Green as an inspector, in the first management exchange scheme between Essex and the Met. He was one of a new generation of police officers in Britain, and like the current Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, boasted impressive intellectual abilities and a media-friendly approach. Mr Todd graduated with a first-class degree in politics from Essex University and went on to do an M Phil. The university named him its alumnus of the year in 2003.

His police career was fast-tracked at an early stage. In 1995 he was made Assistant Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire before returning to London in 1998 where he was appointed Deputy Assistant Commissioner responsible for the north-west area of the capital.

Two years later he became Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and was responsible for policing of all 32 London boroughs. It was during this time that he led high-profile operations at events such as the May Day demonstrations, the Notting Hill Carnival and the Queen's Jubilee celebrations.

In 2002 he became Chief Constable of Greater Manchester and he was made vice-president of the Association of Chief Police Officers in 2006.

Throughout his career he gained a reputation for being open with the media, and often stated his belief in the importance of a good relationship between the police and the press.

In 1992 he invited television crews to join him on police raids and since then has been interviewed on various television and radio programmes including the Today programme on Radio 4.

He is one of a small number of top officers to have been grilled by the BBC's Jeremy Paxman and, during the May Day riots in 2001, he held 66 television and radio interviews, which remains a record.