WYCOMBE’S despondent police chief has described Louise Gibson as an ‘exceptional, respected and popular police sergeant’.

Superintendent Ed McLean said Sgt Gibson was “like a mother figure” to her fellow officers and was respected by junior and senior colleagues alike.

The Wycombe Commander said his officers were “extremely upset” after a dog walker discovered a woman’s body – believed to be that of missing Sgt Gibson – in Crook’s Wood in Great Kingshill at 3.55pm on Monday.

He said: “Louise was a highly respected sergeant here; she was very popular.

“She was genuinely a very outgoing, popular and highly respected officer. She was respected by the youngest and some of the most senior officers.

“I’ve been here almost six months and in that time her team always delivered and that was mainly down to her driven leadership.

“Louise was an exceptional police officer and her staff could go to her to talk to her, almost like a mother figure, about their own issues. She was excellent.”

Sgt Gibson vanished from her parents’ home in the village at 5.30pm on Thursday after completing her shift – sparking a large four day search operation.

Supt McLean, pictured below, said her team returned to work yesterday knowing she was still missing – but they were sent home after the devastating news was broken to them by senior officers.

Bucks Free Press: Supt Ed McLean

Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead said: “It’s a sad day for Thames Valley Police but it is nothing compared to the family – our hearts go out to them.

“We are a close knit team - everyone is affected, from her colleagues to the people out searching for her to the person who took the call today.

“TVP has a fine tradition of pulling together when times are hard and I’m sure we will do that over the coming days and support each other.”

The mother-of-three, originally from Macclesfield where she owned a house, was married to fellow Wycombe-based police officer John Gibson.

She enjoyed horse-riding with her youngest daughter, outdoor pursuits, walking her dog, keeping fit and playing sport.

Hours before the dog walker’s discovery in Crook's Wood (map below), eldest daughter Beth Pettit - one of two children from a previous marriage - pleaded for her mum to come home.

The 25-year-old told the Macclesfield Express: “Mum is a wonderful person.

“We have no idea what happened and that makes it really difficult to deal with. There were no mental health issues and this is completely out of character.

“Mum always put everyone first. She was really well respected in her job and a great leader.”

Sgt Gibson became a police officer in 1996 and spent most of her career serving the Wycombe area. She was due to sit her inspector’s exams soon.

Former Wycombe Area Commander, Chief Superintendent Gilbert Houalla, told the Free Press today: “She was a genuinely nice person.

“On top of that she was an exceptional and effective police officer who cared about her job and cared about her fellow officers.

“I am genuinely sad she is no longer with us and I will miss her enormously.”

The Police Federation’s Sergeants’ Central Committee held a minute’s silence ahead of its annual conference this morning.

Officers and police forces from around the country have taken to social media websites to pay their respects to Sgt Gibson.

ACC Garry Shewan from Greater Manchester Police tweeted last night: “My thoughts go to the family & friends of Sgt Louise Gibson & all at TVP at this sad time. Tough day - many suffering.”

Jamie Bell tweeted: “This could quite easily be any one of us at any point in our careers. Very sad news! Louise Gibson, rest in peace.”

He posted it with an image of a thin blue line with the words ‘to some this is just a blue line...to others it’s a family crest’.

PC Darren Kirkwood from Humberside Police posted: “Sad to hear about Sgt Louise Gibson from TVP. Thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues at this time #PoliceFamily #RIP.”

A formal identification of the body has not yet taken place but ACC Chris Shead said Sgt Gibson’s colleagues were “99 percent sure” it is her.

The post-mortem is expected be held on Thursday.

The force added it was currently treating the death as “unexplained” but it is understood officers are not treating it as suspicious at this time.

Sgt Gibson's death has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, as is standard procedure when a death occurs following contact with police.