A CLOSE friend of a former Accrington policeman twice decorated for bravery has paid tribute to him after he was found dead at his home.
Sergeant Craig Illingworth, 45, who had worked as a police cadet in Accrington and Rossendale, was found hanged at his home in Blacko near Nelson last week.
Sgt Illingworth, who lived with his family in Baxenden until he was 19, began his police career as a cadet based in Accrington in 1978 before moving to Burnley where he spent most of his career.
He went on to become one of the country’s youngest firearms officers, covering the whole of East Lancashire.
During his career he received four commendations – two for good police work and two for bravery.
These were for disarming a man in Burnley town centre and for climbing on to the roof of a building in hazardous weather to talk down a distressed man who was threatening to jump.
Detective Inspector Derek Jones of Nelson CID had a long association with Sergeant Illing-worth, who was the best man at his wedding.
He said: "Craig was a very proud person and loved the job he was doing. He was very thoughtful when dealing with victims and also very confident when he needed to be.
"He was a person who really loved the outdoors – it didn’t matter whether it was horse riding with his wife or just walking his two dogs.
"He also had a real passion for crown green bowling."
Other colleagues also paid tribute to the brave, popular and well-respected officer.
Chief Superintendent Neil Smith said: "Craig was always a dedicated and committed officer in all the roles he performed.
"He always conducted himself in an extremely professional manner and this was reflected in his Chief Constable’s commendations and numerous letters of appreciation he received during the course of his service.
"He will be sadly missed by many people."
An inquest into his death was opened last Tuesday and adjourned pending the results of a post-mortem examination.