TRIBUTES have poured in for a former senior Hampshire police officer who served with the force over four decades.

Ian Readhead OBE QPM LL.B has been described as a "wonderful husband, dad and grandad" following his death aged 65 after living with cancer for some time.

He joined Hampshire Police as a cadet in 1971, going on to become deputy chief constable before retiring from policing 2008.

Ian then became the first chief executive office of ACRO Criminal Records Office, a national police unit based in Fareham responsible for the exchange of criminal conviction information between the UK and overseas law enforcement partners.

Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said: “For Hampshire and Hampshire Constabulary, Ian has left us with the most wonderful legacy and set the tone for this force in a deep and vital way. So much of what I have the joy and privilege to lead in this Constabulary was developed by Ian and on his watch.

"Described by colleagues as ‘Hampshire to his core’, Ian was ethical, visionary and generous with his time and wisdom, a great supporter of all our police family and mentor to so many. His leadership, service and kindness will be sorely missed.”

Born in Norley Wood, Lymington, in February, 1955, Ian came from a commoning family. He left school at the age of 16 in 1971 to join Hampshire Constabulary as a police cadet at Bishop’s Waltham, where he gained 10 O-levels, studying at Fareham Technical College. This launched a career dedicated to the police service.

He served at many stations across the county including Hythe, Portsmouth Central, Fleet, Southampton Central, Fareham, Bitterne, Hulse Road, Andover, Lyndhurst and police headquarters, Winchester.

Aged 24, Ian was promoted to be the youngest police inspector in the county and one of the youngest in Britain.

Between 1979 and 1982, having won a scholarship to study at Southampton University, Ian gained a Bachelor of Law degree, returning to work at Fareham during the educational breaks. In 1986, he joined the traffic department as a chief inspector at Hulse Road in Southampton.

Over the 14 years that followed he climbed through the ranks up to deputy chief constable.

On top of his love of gardening and family life, Ian also found time to run the local Cubs’ football team in Hythe.

In 2015, he was awarded the honour of Officer of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his services to policing and public protection.

A tribute from his family said: "Whether a leader, a boss, a mentor or police-dad to all who needed him, Ian had a way of making the people who worked for him feel special."