THE police chief for the Eastern Division, covering Blackburn, Darwen, Hyndburn and the Ribble Valley, will retire at the end of March, it has been confirmed.

The retirement of Chief Superintendent John Thompson, 51, will pave the way for his deputy, Dave Mallaby to take on the role of divisional commander in April.

Ch Supt Thompson was appointed in June 2000 as successor to Eddie Walsh after a varied police career.

He is a married father-of-two and lives in the Ribble Valley. It was announced Mr Thompson was intending to retire when the new police headquarters at Whitebirk was opened in January.

Blackburn MP Jack Straw and Chief Constable Paul Stephenson have already paid tribute to Mr Thompson.