THE MAN found dead at his home last week sparking fears of an ebola outbreak was a former council leader, it has emerged.

Andy Smith, 64, was found dead just five days after he had returned from Nigeria and West Africa - a region of the world currently gripped by the lethal fever which has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people.

His death led to a hazardous medical team being called in to assess his body before tests later confirmed he did not have the killer disease.

Mr Smith, was a Labour councillor in West Thurrock and South Stifford and cabinet member on Thurrock Council having led the council as leader in the late Nineties.

A spokesman for Public Health England said that Mr Smith had been to Nigeria and West Africa, but not in infected areas and ebola had been ruled out as the cause of his death.

Responding to the 999 call it received to attend his home in Nutberry Avenue, in Grays, last Tuesday, the East of England Ambulance Service sent a hazardous area response team who entered the property and confirmed that Mr Smith was deceased.

A spokesman for the ambulance service said: “Public Health England were alerted due to the man’s travel history.

“We have a protocols in place instructing staff on how to act when dealing with suspected cases of a variety of diseases, including ebola.”

Police confirmed yesterday that a post-mortem examination revealed he had died suddenly - not as a result of ebola - and that a file had been passed to the coroner.

In Nigeria only one person has died from the ebola virus so far and the risk of catching it from a trip there is thought to be low.

Tributes have been paid to Mr Smith with John Kent, the Labour leader of Thurrock Council, saying his loss would "have an impace on many people".

He added: "Andy was a tremendous and hard-working councillor and was well known among his current constituents in West Thurrock and South Stifford ward.”

Rob Gledhill, leader of the Conservative group in Thurrock, said: "We are sorry to hear of the passing of Councillor Andy Smith and would pass on our condolences to his family.

"Cllr Smith had served the residents of Thurrock for over two decades and will no doubt be missed by many. His years of experience and dedication to politics and the community in Thurrock will not be soon forgotten."