THE best friend of Dormansland chef David Pickett has paid tribute to a "lovely, caring and genuine guy".
Sam Bradley said the 34-year-old would be missed by his close group of friends, who searched relentlessly for him, sometimes going out from dawn until dusk.
A huge police operation and searches by frantic family and friends had failed to uncover his whereabouts until a member of the public came across a body in Bottoms Wood, Dormansland, at about 4.30pm on Tuesday.
Mr Pickett had been reported missing after he failed to turn up for work at 7am on Monday last week at Greathed Manor care home, in Ford Manor Road in the village.
He had left work the previous night at 8pm and lived in a flat on site.
Concerned colleagues phoned police, and a search team was dispatched on the ground along with a police helicopter and a dive team to check ponds and water courses in the area.
Officers found Mr Pickett's dog, Talan, running loose in the Moor Lane area of the village, compounding fears for his safety as he was rarely separated from the Staffordshire bull terrier cross American bulldog.
Mr Pickett regularly walked Talan in the woods around the care home.
During a police search at the weekend, a dog's lead was found about 300 metres from the care home. It is still unclear whether it belonged to David.
His next of kin have been made aware of the discovery of the body. At this time the death is being treated as unexplained but there is nothing to suggest any third party involvement, according to Surrey Police.
Mr Pickett's best friend, Sam Bradley, had known him for 27 years, having grown up with him in the village, gone to the same primary school and played alongside him in several sports teams when they were children.
Mr Bradley said: "David was such a lovely, caring and genuine guy. He will be missed by so many people. He loved his friends and family, loved being a chef and loved his dog. He was a very sociable guy.
"We have a really close group of friends from growing up in the village and we've always kept in touch. We are all devastated he is no longer with us.
"Throughout the whole of this, it has been the support of the people who have helped to search for David and those who have shared the appeals and put up posters which has kept us going.
"We have been overwhelmed by the amazing support and love we've received and I'd like to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart. We're just very regretful that it has turned out the way it has."
David's brother, Russell Pickett, said before he heard the news on Tuesday that the disappearance was so out of character the situation did not seem real.
He said: "It seems a bit surreal at the moment. We went into David's flat on Monday and it was really difficult and a strange feeling going in there.
"Sometimes it does not seem real and then next it hits me really hard."