The family of James Middleton has paid tribute to the man they loved, after a body was found by police looking for him eight months after he went missing.

Police stopped actively searching for him in September, and resumed the operation on January 22, after seasonal changes made undergrowth easier to look through.

They found a body in Ashtead common at about 1pm on February 11, near a blue mobility scooter matching the description of the one Mr Middleton, known as Jim, owned.

Lisa McCool, Jim's cousin, said: "I think like many I am relieved that he has been found, but equally sad that he has been laying out there for so long."

Jim's brother, David, also speaking on behalf of their brother Keith, said: “Jim was always our ‘big brother’ even though he was actually shorter than both of us. He was a kind man, a confirmed bachelor, hardworking and very practical and capable with his hands, and was always ready to help out in any way he could.

“Sadly, in his last years, as his Parkinson's Disease and early onset dementia started to affect him, he was not as capable as he had been, but on his good days, of which there were many, there was still a spark of the old Jim there and he could crack a joke and raise a smile.”

Jim was 70 years old when he was reported missing on July 2, 2017, last seen leaving his home, travelling towards Ashtead common.

David said: “All bar a couple of years of his life, Jim lived on Epsom Common, never moving more than a mile from the house he was born in at Stamford Green. For the last 50 years he'd lived on the Wells Estate and loved to get out and about on the commons of Epsom and Ashtead, which he knew very well indeed.

“He hated being stuck indoors, and as his health began to fail, his mobility scooter meant that he could still get out in the fresh air. It seems fitting that he should have spent his last hours outdoors on the commons that he loved.”

The search operation included officers scouring hours of CCTV footage, as well as search teams using helicopters, drones, trail bikes, boats and search dogs – with hundreds of volunteers giving their time to look for Jim.

David said the family wants to thank everybody who helped them since July.

Surrey Police said it is treating the death as unexplained, and will issue updates in due course.