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Regional journalist found dead in river aged 51 after going missing

A regional journalist has been found dead in a river two days after he went missing.

Tributes have been paid to Neil Billingham, pictured, after the 51-year-old’s body was recovered from the Warwick Bridge area of Cumbria, which lies close to the River Eden.

Neil, who began his career on the Wigan Post, had spent the past 10 years working as news editor for ITV Border News.

He was reported missing on 15 October and his body was found two days later, with Cumbria Constabulary confirming his identity on Thursday.

Neil Billingham

His death is not being treated as suspicious and a file is being prepared for the coroner.

Guy Phillips, editor at ITV Regional News, said: “Neil Billingham was a much-loved colleague of ITV Border and worked alongside the team for ten years.

“A passionate advocate for mental health awareness, he will be greatly missed.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.”

Neil started out as a news reporter on the Post in 1996, the same year he joined the National Union of Journalists.

He subsequently went on to work as a reporter for Granada Television.

Neil also worked as a producer and writer for various sports programmes including Futbol Mundial and BBC shows Football Focus, the Football League Show, Match of the Day and Score.

Amy Sutton and Jennie Henry, NUJ Reps and Mothers of the Chapel for ITV Tyne Tees and Border, said in a joint statement: “People are devastated. Neil was such a valued and appreciated member of our team and chapel, and he will be greatly missed by all.

“We were absolutely blindsided.

“He was very well known and respected across ITV, and colleagues in Border and Tyne Tees have been very touched by the messages of sympathy we’ve received from those who knew him.”

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, added: “Our thoughts and condolences are with Neil’s family, friends and his colleagues both past and present across ITV.

“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.”

A Cumbria Constabulary spokesperson said: “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.”

Neil’s funeral is expected to take place in Carlisle, where he lived, with details to follow.