A former National Farmers Union leader has been found dead shortly after he admitted allowing the illegal dumping of waste at his farm in Devon.

Richard Haddock’s death has been confirmed by the National Farmers Union and police say there are no suspicious circumstances and the case has been referred to the coroner.

The 66-year-old, who was known to be in poor health, had pleaded guilty to six regulatory offences when he appeared at Exeter Crown Court last Friday.

His case had been adjourned until July 31 by Judge Stephen Climie but he was not due to be sentenced that day, when a timetable for a Proceeds of Crime investigation was due to be set.

The police say they found the body of a man in his 60s on Sunday after going to the Churston Ferrers area in  response to a call about a person’s welfare.

The NFU has issued a statement sending its condolences to Mr Haddock's family. It says: “We are extremely sorry to hear about the death of former Devon NFU chair Richard Haddock."

NFU President Minette Batters said “Richard was well known to many of us in the South West and throughout the industry for his campaigning work on behalf of farmers and growers. 

“He served in a number of high profile NFU positions including county chair in 1999, and South West regional board chair in 2006/7. He was also chair of the regional livestock board and NFU national livestock board chair in the early 2000s.

“On behalf of the NFU and its members, I offer our condolences to Richard’s wife Caroline and all his family and friends at this very sad time.”

On Friday, Haddock pleaded guilty to six environmental offences which related to the illegal disposal of waste at fields at his Churston Court Farm at Kingswear, South Devon.

He admitted five counts of failing to comply with or contravening Environment Agency permits between 2010 and August 2020 and one of operating a regulated waste activity not in accordance with a permit.

The charges specify that he imported waste onto his land that did not have the chemical, geotechnical or biological characteristics which were set out in his permits from the Environment Agency.

Another five charges, which alleged similar offences, will not be proceeded with. Some alleged that he allowed shellfish waste from commercial fishing to be dumped on his land.

Haddock had been due to face a four-week trial at Exeter Crown Court in November but changed his plea to some of the charges during a case management hearing.

Defence barrister Mr Adrian Chaplin told the hearing that he was planning to obtain evidence of Mr Haddock’s ill health before the next hearing.

Mr Haddock was one of Britain’s most high-profile farm leaders in the 2000s and10s and stood for the chairmanship of the NFU in 2000 before withdrawing his candidacy.

He served as the chairman of the NFU’s Livestock Committee in 2003 and led calls for Britain to retaliate against bans of meat imports by European Union nations during the BSE and Foot and Mouth crises.