David Cameron said he was “devastated” after the chairman of his local constituency was found dead in a portable toilet in a backstage area at the Glastonbury festival.
Police said they did not yet know the cause of death of Christopher Shale, a 56-year old businessman, although friends said there was a history of heart problems in his family.
Michael Eavis, the founder of Glastonbury, earlier referred to a “suicide situation” in the early hours of Sunday morning. But a police source later said that the ongoing investigation had not found any suggestion of suicide.
Barry Norton, a councillor in West Oxfordshire, said the death had deprived the party of “a really great man”.
“He was absolutely in good health, we understand that his death has been as the result of a heart attack, that is the information we have,” he told Sky News. “There is a history of that in his family and anything to the contrary, at the moment, is totally scurrilous.”
The death came just hours after Mr Shale was quoted, in a Conservative strategy document leaked to the Mail on Sunday as saying the Tories had come across over the years as “graceless, voracious, crass, always on the take” and needed to change radically.
Mr Cameron, whose Witney constituency is in west Oxfordshire, released a statement in which he said Shale had been “a great friend” and a “huge support”.
Lord Chadlington, president of the West Oxfordshire Conservative Association, told the Financial Times that Mr Shale would have taken any adverse reaction to the newspaper article “in his stride”. He had been “completely relaxed and at ease about it,” the peer said.
Shale, a wealthy businessman, was chief executive of Oxford Resources, a consultancy based in Chipping Norton. Previously he was chairman of SGL Communications. He was also a backer of OpenEurope, the euro-sceptic thinktank.
Mr Shale has long been involved with the Tory party and helped to set up the “principal patrons club”, which held fundraising events for the party. He became chairman of the local association at the start of this year.
Shale and his wife Nikki put their house up for sale last year in order to spend more time in Lamu, off the Kenyan coast, where they own a holiday home. They had begun work on building a new home at Chipping Norton.
Shale had one son and two step-children, having been married for over two decades. “We are all very, very sad”, said Marion Dowding, the deputy chair of the association.
Lord Chadlington said: “I’m sure he would like to be remembered as a wonderful father and as a fantastic husband to Nikki.”
Here is the statement from David Cameron:
“Sam and I were devastated to hear the news about Christopher. He was a great friend and has been a huge support over the last decade in west Oxfordshire. A big rock in my life has suddenly been rolled away. Christopher was one of the most truly generous people I’ve ever met – he was always giving to others, his time, his help, his enthusiasm and above all his love of life. It was in that spirit that he made a massive contribution to the Conservative Party both locally and nationally. Our love and prayers are with Nikki and the family. They’ve lost an amazing dad, west Oxfordshire has lost a big and wonderful man and like so many others Sam and I have lost a close and valued friend. “