A top police officer who will be best remembered as the man who helped put notorious child attacker Russell Bishop behind bars has died suddenly.

Former Sussex Police Detective Superintendent Tim O’Connor died aged 70 at home in Brighton of natural causes.

During 30 years with Sussex Police, Mr O'Connor, who retired in 2000, tackled some very high-profile cases.

In 1990 he led the investigation into the attempted murder of a seven-year-old girl from Whitehawk at Devil's Dyke.

This led to the conviction of Bishop, then 33, a roofer from Brighton, who is serving life after being found guilty of the charge and of kidnapping and indecently assaulting the girl.

Four years earlier, Bishop had been found not guilty of murdering nine-year-old playmates Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows at the Wild Park in Moulsecoomb.

Mr O'Connor testified to the Devil's Dyke jury that some police felt Bishop had been wrongly acquitted of the Wild Park murders, but that had no bearing on the prosecution of the Devil's Dyke case – he had never even read the Wild Park case file.

The Devil's Dyke case earned him one of his seven commendations from the force, but he insisted it was a team effort. He said: "It was not an especially-difficult case to investigate. There was an enormous amount of evidence which we found."

Mr O'Connor, born in Ireland, rose from PC to Sergeant in five years.

He was promoted to Inspector in 1983 and a year later became Detective Inspector at Brighton. He was appointed Detective Chief Inspector and head of Brighton CID in 1988 and stayed for three years.

After stints in West Sussex, the Regional Crime Squad and in Hove-Shoreham, he took up his final post as Detective Superintendent and Counter-Terrorism Liaison Officer with the Home Office, acting as a link between the Association of Chief Police Officers, Foreign Office, special forces and security services.

Mr O'Connor, once drew a sketch of J.F. Kennedy which found its way to the White House via a travelling salesman and was sent back to him, signed by the late President. It arrived only weeks before Kennedy was assassinated.

Long-serving former Argus crime reporter Phil Mills said: “He was one of the most personable people I’ve ever met and one of the best coppers I’ve ever dealt with.

“He was a great character and would have audiences in tears of laughter at CID dinners and with his leaving do speeches.

“There will be lot of people very saddened by the news. He was a well respected and very likeable man. It was an honour to call him a friend.

“He was a tireless, fearless and determined detective who earned great respect and loyalty from his junior officers. Any who worked with him would willingly give every ounce of effort to help him bring the guilty to justice.”

Councillor Graham Cox, former head of Brighton and Hove CID, added: “I am very proud to have worked with and for Tim. It's an old cliché I know but he really was a character.

“Tim always played down his role in locking up Russell Bishop, saying that there was lots of evidence and it was therefore an easy case to investigate.

“The reality was that he was under huge pressure, because Bishop had been acquitted of two previous murders. His decision to approve the early arrest of Bishop after a young girl was found unconscious on the Dyke was brave, and ultimately it was that leadership which led to so much evidence being recovered.

“During difficult investigations, when morale was falling because we were getting nowhere, he would had an uncanny knack of keeping the team motivated. His story telling was legendary, and many a briefing would finish on a high with one of his anecdotes (some of them unrepeatable in polite company).”

His funeral is due to take place at noon on Friday, July 19 at St Thomas More Roman Catholic Church in Braybon Avenue, Patcham.

Pay tribute to Mr O’Connor at www.theargus.co.uk