TRIBUTES have been paid to the writer behind the successful long-running television series Heartbeat.

Peter Walker, who was also a Gazette & Herald columnist for 40 years, had written 130 books on his experiences of nearly 30 years as a rural police officer in North Yorkshire, which were then made into the hit TV series.

He was often better known under his pen name of Nicholas Rhea and also wrote crime novels, folk stories and a wealth of books on the county’s countryside and legends.

Peter, who was 80, lived with his wife of 58 years, Rhoda, in Ampleforth and continued to write until shortly before he died on Friday from prostate cancer. He also leaves four children, Janet, Andrew, Tricia and Sarah, and eight grandchildren.

During his police career, Peter reached the rank of inspector after working not only in North Yorkshire’s country areas, but also in administration at the police headquarters and later as a teacher at the police training college.

He later spent six years as the press officer for North Yorkshire Police, and recalled how he suddenly found himself in the international spotlight during the hunt for the triple police killer Barry Prudom, who was eventually killed by police marksmen in Malton.

Originally from Glaisdale, near Whitby, Peter began writing while in his 20s. He was working as a policeman in Whitby at the time, and his shift work allowed him a lot of free time. His work moved him to Northallerton, and he became the village bobby at Oswaldkirk from 1963 to 1967.

His daughter Tricia said: “Dad’s cancer, originally diagnosed 10 years ago, sadly returned two weeks ago with a vengeance. His decline was rapid, but he was cared for in those last moments by those who mattered most to him and he spent his final days in his beloved home of 50 years in Ampleforth, a Yorkshireman to the end.”

Peter’s youngest daughter Sarah said: “Dad was a most humble man and success came as quite a surprise and delight to him. He was dedicated to his craft and only stopped writing a couple of weeks ago.

“He was very kind and an amazing dad who encouraged his children in whatever direction they wanted to go and gave us all the courage to travel our own path.”

Peter was a member of the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA), and spent one year as its chairman. He was also a member of the Mystery Writers of America, and on the council of the Yorkshire Dialect Society.

Martin Edwards, the chairman of the CWA, said: “Peter was a great friend and a hugely respected figure in the crime writing world, and as far as the northern chapter of the CWA is concerned, he is really irreplaceable.

“Peter became hugely successful, but success never changed him a bit. He was a kind, generous, down-to-earth man, who took Heartbeat’s success in his stride.”

“I spent many hours in his company over the years and enjoyed every minute. Like many other people, most of all his devoted family, I’ll miss him a great deal.”

Crime writer Val McDermid said: “For many years, Peter ran the Northern Chapter of the CWA and was responsible for organising dozens of lunches and weekend get-togethers where crime writers, their partners and friends could escape from behind their computer screens and enjoy each other’s company.

“Peter and his wife Rhoda were always at the heart of these highly entertaining dos. He was a generous and welcoming host, and nobody was allowed to stay a stranger for long. I have many fond memories of his company, and at least one of my novels sprang directly from a Northern Chapter weekend. He was a man with a great gift for friendship and he’ll be sorely missed.”

Fellow author and Gazette & Herald columnist Bill Spence, who also lives in Ampleforth, said he had first met Peter in 1960.

He said: “He was the policeman in Oswaldkirk and we started chatting one morning and found out that we shared a love of writing. We had been great friends ever since. Peter was always a pleasure to be with and we got on so well, he would do anything for anyone and was always cheerful.

“I have some very happy memories of Peter and have a lost a very dear friend.”

Stuart Martel, the Gazette & Herald’s deputy editor, said: “Peter wrote for the Gazette for over 40 years and his column Rural View was one of our most popular. It was a privilege to have such a talented writer contributing to his local paper and he will be sadly missed.”

Peter’s funeral service will be held on Friday, April 28, at 1.30pm, at Our Lady’s & St Benedict’s Church, Ampleforth, with donations to