Shoplift probe officer found dead

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The Independent Online

A high-ranking police officer who was arrested on suspicion of shoplifting wine with a colleague from a Marks and Spencer store was found dead today.

Police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Detective Chief Inspector Jim Torbet, who was found at his home in the early hours of this morning.

Mr Torbet, 54, had been suspended from Sussex Police since September after he and Chief Inspector Sharon Rowe were arrested on suspicion of shoplifting wine from an M&S store.

The pair were freed on police bail pending further inquiries following the alleged incident at the store in Shoreham, West Sussex.

A Sussex Police spokeswoman said Mr Torbet was found dead at his home in the Lewes area of East Sussex.

Sussex Police chief constable Martin Richards announced Mr Torbet's death in a message to staff.

Mr Richards said: "It is with the greatest sadness and regret that I have to tell colleagues of the sudden and untimely death overnight of Detective Chief Inspector Jim Torbet.

"Jim had given many years of loyal and dedicated service to Sussex Police, and in recent years has served as Detective Chief Inspector in the Professional Standards Department."

During Mr Torbet's 28-year career with Sussex Police he received five commendations.

Mr Richards added: "Jim was a popular and valued member of our team. I would ask that the privacy of all those affected by this news is respected at this very difficult time."

There are no suspicious circumstances concerning the death, which has been referred to the Coroner, the force added.

In 2003, Mr Torbet's 19-year-old daughter, bank clerk Rae Torbet, was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend, forklift truck driver Dellwyn James, after he lay in wait for her at her flat in Bexhill, East Sussex.

He broke down in tears as he saw James jailed for life at Lewes Crown Court later that year and outside court expressed his wish that James would be "third time lucky" with any further suicide bid.

Mr Torbet joined Sussex Police in 1980 and held a number of senior positions, latterly in the force's professional standards department.

Meanwhile, Ms Rowe, 44, is district commander of Worthing.

A trained English teacher, she became the first woman to reach the rank of inspector in Brighton and Hove in 1998 after joining the police service in 1986. She became Worthing's district commander last year.

Howard Hodges was appointed acting chief inspector in Worthing with immediate effect in Ms Rowe's absence, community leaders were told in an email from Sussex Police.

In the email, Mr Hodges said: "This change will not have any operational impact on the policing of Worthing."

Mr Torbet was vice chair of governors at Bexhill High School in Bexhill.

Its chair of governors, Brian Kentfield, said he was a governor at the mixed-sex school for more than 10 years.

Mr Kentfield said: "Jim was a guy who I had an enormous amount of respect for and he was a great figure. He was a fantastic guy and a great supporter of the school.

"He gave us very long and distinguished service at the school and I held him in high regard and as a very close friend."

A spokesman for the local education authority, East Sussex County Council, said: "We are very saddened by the news. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time."