UPDATE: Decomposed remains of Greehithe policeman found after neighbours noticed ‘smell of death’
PUBLISHED: 14:29 08 April 2016 | UPDATED: 14:56 08 April 2016
The family of Gordon Semple say “our world will be a worse place without him”
The decomposed remains of missing police officer Gordon Semple were discovered after a neighbour alerted Scotland Yard to a “smell of death” coming from a housing estate flat.
The body of Pc Semple, 59, was found at a property in Southwark, south London, on Thursday and a 49-year-old suspect was arrested at the same address.
The man arrested at the flat in Block E where the remains were discovered had put scented candles outside his door to disguise a smell, a resident on the estate said.
Heather Brown, who lives in the block next door, said her neighbour had noticed a “terrible smell”.
She said the neighbour and his brother had confronted the owner of the flat after becoming aware of the stench.
The 55-year-old said: “They just smelled this horrible smell, really.
“The candles had been outside for a few days, he had been putting candles outside his door for the smell.
“He just knocked on the door, and he said he was just cooking.”
The neighbour then phoned the police, she said.
Ms Brown, who has lived on the estate for 30 years, said the housing block was a “very quiet place” where there were “never any problems”.
The five-storey buildings are dwarfed by the overlooking Shard.
Ms Brown said she did not know who it was that had been arrested but that the block in which he lived was full of short-let tenants.
Police had sealed off all the rubbish chutes in the estate, she added.
Thousands of people joined a Facebook group to help search for Pc Semple, and his family spoke of their devastation following his death.
In a statement, Pc Semple’s brother, Ronnie Semple, said: “On behalf of Gordon’s partner Gary, my wife Maureen, Gordon’s nephew Paul, niece Kerry and I, I would like to thank everyone for their kind thoughts during the past dreadful week. It has been a terrible time for us all, especially Gary.”
He added: “Gordon will be sadly missed by all of his immediate family, his colleagues in the Met Police, former Bank of Scotland colleagues in Inverness and London, friends from his ‘Tartan Army’ days, but most of all the hardest loss is for Gary at this time.
“Gordon was a much-loved partner, brother, brother-in-law, uncle and cousin, and our world will be a worse place without him.”
Friends remembered Pc Semple as a “great character” and and “old-school cop”.
Kevin Holland said: “RIP Gordon. Was there in my hour of need, sorry I couldn’t be there in his. Missed by many. One of life’s great characters taken”, while Kristina Radu recalled him as a “very happy, smiley man”.
Paul Hutchinson said: “Wish I could have been there for you at your time in need; my utmost pleasure to have known you. My thoughts to your family”, while Rona Tynan wrote: “Have heard he was a great cop old school. Very very sad reading this news. Deepest sympathies to the family and I hope justice is served at the highest order.”
And Andrew Crooke added: “Rest peacefully brother. You’ve booked off your last shift here and I know you are starting rest days in a better place.”
Pc Semple, an officer of 30 years, was last seen at 3pm on Friday on CCTV near London Bridge, a short distance from the property on the Peabody Estate.
Officers are continuing a “vital search for evidence” at the scene which will take “some time” to complete, Scotland Yard said.
Metropolitan Police Commander Alison Newcomb said: “This is a very sad day for Gordon’s colleagues.
“There are many officers who have served with Gordon in London during his 30-year career who will acutely feel his loss.”
Pc Semple left his home in Greenhithe, Dartford, to go to work in Westminster on Friday, and on that same day visited the Shard in Southwark.
He left there at 12.30pm and was last seen on CCTV about two and a half hours later.
Ms Newcomb, commander of the territorial policing unit, said: “Yesterday afternoon we were called by a member of the public to an address on the Peabody Estate, Southwark Street.
“At that address a man was arrested and human remains were discovered.
“Due to the condition of those human remains it will take some time for the cause of death to be established and for formal identification to take place.
“At this point I do not wish to speculate on what has happened.”
She appealed for anyone with information to get in touch with the force.
A fundraising page has also been set up on behalf of Pc Semple’s family.
Those wishing to donate can do so here.