Former chief constable Hoddinott is found dead in hotel bedroom

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's most experienced and respected police officers has died at the age of 56 while investigating the running of a multimillion-pound police corruption inquiry.

Sir John Hoddinott – who was Chief Constable of Hampshire from 1988 to 1999 and a former president of the Association of Chief Police Officers – was found dead in bed yesterday morning at a hotel in Middlesbrough. Cleveland Police said there were no suspicious circumstances and "natural causes" were suspected. A post-mortem examination will be carried out to establish the cause of death.

The Chief Constable of Hampshire, Paul Kernaghan, said: "Everyone is stunned – there were no indications of any health problems. Sir John was above all a husband and father but he was also an outstanding police officer.

"It would be fair comment to describe him as a giant professionally. He scaled all the professional heights and was recognised as the outstanding officer of his time."

Sir John was in Middlesbrough to begin an inquiry into the running of Operation Lancet, which examined allegations against Detective Superintendent Ray Mallon, the officer said to be responsible for the introduction of "zero-tolerance" policing, and other members of Middlesbrough CID.

In April, Jack Straw, the former home secretary, appointed Sir John to lead the inquiry after widespread criticism of Operation Lancet, which cost £3m and failed to result in a single prosecution. The inquiry was examining what lessons could be learnt for the establishment of a new and more independent police complaints system.

Det Supt Mallon was suspended from duty in December 1997. Seven of his officers were also suspended. Allegations included accusations that drugs were traded with criminals for confessions and that prisoners were intimidated.

Last year the Crown Prosecution Service decided there were no criminal charges to answer, but Det Supt Mallon was to face disciplinary charges. He resigned on Friday.

Sir John served with the Metropolitan Police for 20 years before moving to Surrey force as an assistant chief constable and later to Hampshire. He lived at Otterbourne, near Winchester, with his wife, Avril. The couple had two daughters.