Christine Lavelle and Amanda MacMillan
A POLICE dog handler has been found dead under mysterious circumstances in East Lothian.
Friends of Police Constable John Burke, from Musselburgh, suggested there may have been a “tragic accident”.
The 41-year-old was a uniformed officer who served with Lothian and Borders Police force for 22 years.
His body was discovered by a member of the public out walking on Thursday afternoon in the Cowpits area of Musselburgh – a quiet part of the town which is surrounded by fields.
PC Burke’s death is being treated by police as “unexplained” but a friend of the officer’s family said there had been a “tragic accident”.
The man, who was overcome with grief, spoke briefly outside the family’s residence near the Monktonhall area of the town.
He said many people had been deeply affected by PC Burke’s death, including his partner and all of his neighbours.
Inquiries are ongoing into the mystery surrounding the death but a police spokesman insisted there were no suspicious circumstances.
He could not confirm if it had been an accident or if he died of a natural cause.
PC Burke was not believed to have been on duty when he was found as he was not wearing a uniform.
The spokesman said: “Police are investigating the death of a 41-year-old serving Lothian and Borders Police officer, whose body was recovered in the Cowpits area of Musselburgh on Thursday afternoon.
“The officer’s name is John Burke, 41, from Musselburgh.
“He had served with the force for 22 years.
“Inquiries are underway in order to establish the circumstances surrounding his death, which at this time is unexplained.
“Our sincere condolences go to his family at this difficult time.”
PC Burke worked with the dog section at Fettes and back in 2005 he was part of Operation Wolf.
The operation was designed to track down criminals quickly who may be fleeing crime scenes, by rushing the dogs their in high-speed cars.
On one particular occasion, PC Burke and his police dog Cole were sent to a petrol station robbery after two raiders confronted forecourt staff in Cominston Road garage.
The vehicle arrived minutes later and PC Burke set the dog quickly picked up the scent and tracked down a pair of suspects who were cowering in nearby bushes.
PC Burke had been with the dog section for nine years when the operation launched, he proudly said at the time: “It was Cole’s first ever night on the streets so he clearly did well.
“This operation is about getting a dog to the scene as soon as possible, which can be very effective.”