Tributes have been paid to a regional journalist who was found dead in a Cumbrian river two days after he went missing.
Neil Billingham, who began his career on the Wigan Post, had spent the past 10 years working as news editor for ITV Border News. His body was recovered from the Warwick Bridge area of Cumbria close to the River Eden last week.
NUJ Reps and Mothers of the Chapel for ITV Tyne Tees and Border, Amy Sutton and Jennie Henry, said: “People are devastated. Neil was such a valued and appreciated member of our team and chapel, and he will be greatly missed by all.”
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, sent condolences on behalf of the union: “Our thoughts and condolences are with Neil’s family, friends and his colleagues both past and present across ITV,” she said. “It’s awful to lose such a talented, inspiring editor and at such a young age. We commend Neil for his advocacy on mental health and for the many journalistic qualities he upheld in his professional career. We hope that his colleagues can find comfort in fond memories, and we join with the many warm tributes being made to Neil.”
ITV said in a statement: “ITV Border would like to share a tribute to a much-loved colleague. Neil Billingham, who was Lookaround’s News Editor, worked alongside us for ten years. He has died at the age of 51.
“As well as being a treasured part of our team, Neil was well-known by many in the community in his village of Scotby, near Carlisle in Cumbria, and the wider region.
“Neil was a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and supported countless people during difficult times in their lives – whether that be as a volunteer or as a friend. During his career, Neil offered mentorship and support to journalists entering the industry.
“The team across the ITV Border patch has been touched by the messages of sympathy sent by those who knew Neil.
Neil will be greatly missed by our entire team. We send all our love and support to his family and friends.”
Cumbria Police said the death is not being treated as suspicious. A spokesman added: “Police can confirm that the body of a man located in the Warwick Bridge area on Tuesday 17 October has been formally identified as Neil Billingham, 51, from Carlisle who was reported as missing on 15 October.
“The death is not being treated as suspicious. A file is being prepared for the coroner.”