A POLICE dog died suddenly yesterday during routine exercises.

Gunner, a five-year-old German Shepherd, was starting his evening shift at Stanway on Saturday January 25.

He was carrying out basic fetch and return exercises and was carrying a ball back to his handler when he collapsed.

He was immediately taken to a veterinarian in Colchester for treatment but was subsequently confirmed to have died.

Chief Inspector Tom Simons, of Essex Police, said: "This is a very sad occasion.

“The bond between our handlers and their dogs is very strong and the officer involved is very upset at the loss. While they are working dogs, these animals also become a close and important member of each police officer's family.

"All the initial indications are that Gunner died of natural causes but a review into the circumstances of his death will be carried out."