Colleagues shocked at death of police chief always in frontline
· Todd had been thought of as Met contender
· Tireless leader was keen to engage with the media
Mike Todd was as comfortable on the frontline taking on Manchester's gangs as he was discussing the finer points of policing with senior strategists and politicians. The chief constable of Greater Manchester, known affectionately as Tigger during his time at Scotland Yard, is thought to have killed himself high in the Welsh mountains. Yesterday colleagues expressed their shock at his death.
Peter Fahy, chief constable of the neighbouring Cheshire force, who saw Todd last week, said: "It was a face-to-face meeting, he seemed fine. He was a big, strong character, with a very commanding presence. I thought he was a top-quality guy. He was a great leader. I am genuinely shocked."
Known as an ebullient and tireless detective, the 50-year-old, who had worked his way through the ranks in London and Nottingham, hit the headlines last year when he volunteered to be shot with a 50,000-volt Taser gun in an attempt to dispel concerns about their safety. Popular with rank and file officers, he listed his heroes as Alexander the Great and Generals Norman Schwarzkopf and George Patton.
He moved to Manchester in 2002, and soon had a picture on his desk of himself in Moss Side dressed in police body armour. Todd was also a keen walker and marathon runner, often competing alongside Hugh Orde, chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Both Orde and Todd were mentioned as possible contenders to become the UK's "top cop" when Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Ian Blair stands down. Those who knew Todd said he believed a spell in a big regional force would put him in contention. However, Manchester did not prove to be the platform he had hoped for, and recently his name appeared only on the periphery of those officers who could succeed Blair.
The married father of three joined Essex police in 1976 and served as a uniformed officer and a detective. After a stint as inspector at Bethnal Green in east London he was appointed an assistant chief constable in Nottinghamshire in 1995, before becoming deputy assistant commissioner at the Met three years later. In 2000 he was promoted to assistant commissioner, and became responsible for territorial policing across all 32 London boroughs.
He led many high-profile operations and events, including policing May Day demonstrations and the Notting Hill carnival. He was also responsible for managing the Queen's jubilee celebrations and policing a string of anti-globalisation protests.
When he took over at Manchester, Todd set about turning around a force which was then one of the poorest performers in the UK. He criticised some of his officers for the way they were conducting interviews with suspects, and said the city had to accept it had a problem with gun and gang crime. His supporters say he never lost contact with the frontline, and enjoyed being out on the beat with colleagues more than being behind a desk. Shortly after taking over in Manchester he set a minimum number of hours for beat duties for every officer in the force.
In 2006 he became the vice-chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers, the politically powerful group of senior officers that helps set policy across constabularies. His interests in the body included counter-terrorism and media policy. Greater Manchester became the first area outside London to launch a dedicated counter-terrorism unit.
In his force biography, Todd described his interests as chauffeuring around his children - twin boys and a girl - mountain biking, computer games and reading. A physically imposing man, he knew how to work the press, although his most famous stunt was largely seen to have backfired. A long-standing champion of the Taser electric gun, he hoped to persuade doubters by allowing himself to be shot to show its effects. Collapsing in agony moments later he said: "And yes, it hurt like hell, and no, I wouldn't want to do it again."
However, he wanted to be noticed. That didn't always mean he was popular with all his peers - but even his detractors would concede that his death is a big loss for policing.
· First class honours degree from Essex University. Joined Essex police in 1976.
· Appointed an assistant chief constable of Nottinghamshire in 1995 before becoming deputy assistant commissioner with the Metropolitan police three years later.
· In 2000, following promotion to assistant commissioner, took charge of territorial policing, covering all 32 London boroughs.
· Elected vice-president of the Association of Chief Police Officers in 2006 and was a member of Acpo's terrorism committee.
· Described his heroes as Alexander the Great, and Generals Norman Schwarzkopf and George Patton.