A FORMER council leader, who died last week, had recently returned from Nigeria sparking concerns he had died from Ebola, it has emerged.

Andy Smith, 64, was found unconcious at his home in Nutberry Avenue, Grays, last Tuesday, 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.

Mr Smith, a Labour councillor in West Thurrock and South Stifford and cabinet member on Thurrock Council, was thought to have been in Nigeria visiting a friend.

But police confirmed on Monday 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.

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 last Tuesday, the East of England Ambulance Service sent several resources to the scene including the hazardous area response team who entered the property and confirmed that Mr Smith was deceased.

A spokesperson 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.”

Only one person has died from the Ebola virus in Nigeria and the risk of catching it from a trip there is thought to be low.

Meanwhile, tributes to Mr Smith have been pouring in.

Last week, John Kent, the Labour leader of Thurrock Council, said: "Andy and I go back a long, long way and this shocking news has hit me personally. His loss will also have an impact on many people.

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

Mr Smith, who was leader of the council in the late 90s, up until 2004, also served as a councillor in Tilbury, before transferring to serve in West Thurrock. He first became a councillor in the 1980s.

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."