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Tributes paid to former police officer and tireless Highland Hospice volunteer who died suddenly

By Alasdair Fraser

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Derek Mitchell was well known for his fundraising efforts for Highland Hospice.
Derek Mitchell was well known for his fundraising efforts for Highland Hospice.

A daughter has spoken of the comfort she is drawing from hundreds of messages of condolence following the sudden death of her charity volunteer father.

Derek Mitchell (65), a former police officer, worked tirelessly for Highland Hospice after leaving the force in 2009.

He took ill suddenly on Monday last week and died the following day of a suspected heart attack.

Tributes have shone a light on the deep affection in which he was held by so many.

For only child Jennifer Mitchell (34), a Cambridge-based research scientist, her dad’s passing came as a shock despite recent ill health.

Derek Mitchell and daughter Jennifer.
Derek Mitchell and daughter Jennifer.

"Dad has had a number of health problems for the last few years, but never his heart," she told the Courier.

"In 2009 we thought we might lose him, but he fought through cancer. Latterly, he had kidney issues through diabetes.

"I was so glad he threw himself into charity work with Highland Hospice. It was something very close to his heart.

"When he stopped being able to drive the patient transport vehicles himself, he went on to organise the drivers. He just wanted to help however he could.

"I’m overwhelmed by the messages. It feels like a rollercoaster at the moment, but I’ve read every single one.

"I’m taking so much comfort from knowing dad touched the lives of so many."

Mr Mitchell, who lost his wife Glynis in 2008, was the proudest of dads and would often speak about his daughter’s life and achievements.

Derek Mitchell was a former police officer.
Derek Mitchell was a former police officer.

Perth born and bred, but schooled at Edinburgh Academy, Mr Mitchell initially worked for the Meteorological Office before 31 years’ service with Northern Constabulary from 1978.

He was stationed in Thurso, Orkney and Skye, before making Inverness town centre his beat as a dedicated career constable.

An avid traveller, in 1996 he won a free yearly holiday for life in a Times newspaper competition, enabling memorable trips to Africa, South America, Australia and the Far East.

Derek Mitchell in New Zealand.
Derek Mitchell in New Zealand.

A huge St Johnstone Football Club fan rugby was, however, his first love as both player and spectator. He also frequented Eden Court and loved live music.

For 11 years at Highland Hospice, he dedicated time to fundraising, transport co-ordination and many other small but important tasks.

Dave Conner, Highlands and Islands branch secretary of the Retired Police Officers Association Scotland, was stationed with him at Kirkwall.

"Derek enjoyed a great rapport with the public. He had no great wish to climb the ranks," Mr Conner said.

"He was well-built and robust when called upon, but a very gentle man at heart. He was nicknamed Munch because he liked his food so much.

"My abiding memory of Derek was the traditional Orkney Ba’ game which turned the streets into a massive scrum every New Year.

"Derek had the guts to take part. As a serving cop, that was a very brave thing to do and it is testament to the respect the locals had for him that he didn’t get hurt!"

Mr Mitchell met wife Glynis in Orkney and they were married in 1984 before settling in Inverness from 1989.

"He was one of the most sincere and committed police officers I ever had the privilege to work with," David O’Connor, a former Inverness area commander, said.

"He had a wicked sense of humour and could bring a welcome touch of it to even the most serious of situations."

Amanda Forbes, Highland Hospice’s fundraising manager, said: "All of our volunteers are amazing, but Derek was a one-off, always there for us.

"I don’t think I ever saw him without a smile on his face."

Volunteer manager Maria Cuthbert added: "He was very good company, quite the joker, and a very clever man with an amazing memory for facts and figures.

"He made so many friends wherever he went and was such a part of the Hospice family. He will be so very much missed."

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