A solicitor found dead with stab wounds near a city running track was the focus of a police and watchdog investigation before his death, The Journal can reveal.
Peter Thomas Maine’s body was discovered by a cyclist just before 8am on Sunday opposite the Maiden Castle running track in Durham City.
A huge forensic operation remained in place last night as detectives looked to find a murder weapon and scoured the banks of the River Wear.
Detectives last night confirmed that Mr Maine, a solicitor who previously worked at Hall & Co LLP, in Easington Colliery, Peterlee, County Durham, was the subject of a police investigation.
The father-of-two from Wynyard, Stockton-on-Tees, was also due to be prosecuted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) over allegation that of his involvement with a “dubious” company while working in County Durham.
Last night his family paid a moving tribute to the 55-year-old and urged any witnesses to come forward. In a statement released through Durham Constabulary, Mr. Maine’s family said: “Peter was a loving husband to Joanna, a devoted father to Lucy and Jessica and a much-loved son of George and brother to Helen.
“Words at this time cannot express how we, his family, are feeling. We would ask that anyone with information regarding what happened to Peter to please contact Durham Constabulary.”
Detectives said they were treating his death as “suspicious” and “unexplained”. The area remained cordoned off as officers from specialist search teams, including Northumbria Police’s marine unit, carried out “extensive searches” of the river and its banks.
Mr Maine was wearing blue tracksuit bottoms, trainers and a short-sleeved black running top and his black Range Rover Discovery was discovered just over one mile away in Old Elvet, Durham, at 7.30am. It’s thought he had been working in the Old Elvet area.
Police appealed for anyone who may have been in the area between Old Elvet and Maiden Castle between 7.15am and 8.15am to come forward.
Det Insp Lyn Peart, who is co-ordinating the investigation, said: “We would especially like to hear from any rowers, dog walkers, cyclists and runners who use this area frequently.
“We are treating Mr Maine’s death as suspicious, however it does remain unexplained and we would appeal to the public for assistance.”
A notice published on the SRA website confirmed it was due to prosecute Mr Maine over allegations he “acted as a solicitor in relation to transactions concerning a company which he ought to have known were dubious and thereby acted in a way that was likely to compromise or impair his independence and/or his integrity and/or his good repute or that of the solicitor’s profession and/or his duty to act in the bests interests of his clients.”
A notice placed on the Hall & Co LLP website said “With effect from the 30 September 2011 Hall & Co LLP ceased to trade as solicitors. Our offices are now closed to the public.”
The notice added: “We would ask you not to approach us for any legal advice as we are prohibited by the Legal Services Act 2007 and professional regulations from providing advice after the 30th September 2011.”
A spokesman for the SRA said: “There was a prosecution pending but that will now be discontinued as it is not in the public interest.” A Durham Constabulary spokesman said: “Mr Maine was the subject of a Durham police investigation.”
Anyone with information regarding Mr Maine’s death is asked to call police on 101 or alternatively call Crimestoppers, anonymously on 0800 555 111.