Villagers remember mudslide victim

An elderly man who died when a landslide engulfed the car he was travelling in with his partner has been described as a "gentleman".

The man, named locally as Michael Rolfe, was driving home from a night out in Beaminster, Dorset, with Rosemary Snell when their silver Skoda was flattened in a tunnel by hundreds of tons of mud and rubble.

The elderly couple had left the restaurant early on July 7 because of the appalling weather, but never made it home.

Their bodies lay undiscovered until Monday evening after Avon and Somerset Police requested a search of the site following a missing persons report.

Villagers in the Somerset village where Mr Rolfe, who was in his 70s, lived, reacted with shock at the news of his death. The father of four, who lived in Fivehead, near Taunton, played bridge regularly but was described as a private person.

Mr Rolfe, who worked in the medical profession before retiring, picked up the local newspaper every day from the nearby Crown pub.

Landlord Steve Chastell, 58, said: "He was very private, he was a gentleman. He was an asker rather than an answerer, if you know what I mean."

Mr Chastell said he had become concerned about Mr Rolfe when he heard about the landslide in the news. "The fact they started talking about a 70-year-old man from Taunton and a 60-year-old woman from Crewkerne, started rousing my suspicion," he said.

Louise Brister, who cleaned Mr Rolfe's house, told The Times newspaper he had two sons and two daughters and had recently become a grandfather again. She said: "He was such a nice, caring guy, who moved here after his wife Lynne died of cancer a few years ago. He was always laughing, so bright and cheerful, and had only recently met Rosemary Snell. He loved his bridge and was keen on cricket."

The police watchdog has revealed that Dorset police have referred the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate the actions of the force.