HUNDREDS of tributes have been paid to a retired police officer and 'legendary' driving instructor who died in a motorcycle crash.

Well-known Kidlington resident John Wheeler, 75, was killed in a 'tragic' collision near Newbury on Tuesday.

His blue and white BMW K1300 motorbike and a grey Mercedes E-class crashed at about 10.45am on the B4494 near Catmore, four miles south of the Oxfordshire border.

Hundreds of people have shared memories of Mr Wheeler on the Nostalgic Oxford and Surrounding Area public Facebook page, hailing him as a 'legend' and 'perfect gentleman.'

You can read and send tributes by clicking this link.

Motorcycling was a passion of the much-loved husband, father-of-four and grandfather, who also served as a Thames Valley Police traffic officer.

Mr Wheeler appeared in the Oxford Mail several times over the years, most notably in 2016, when celebrating his '18th birthday.'

READ AGAIN: 72-year-old John Wheeler finally gets to toast his 18th birthday

The leap year baby was technically turning 72, but had only seen his actual birthday 18 times.

Oxford Mail:

The story went viral on social media and was picked up by news outlets across the world, much to Mr Wheeler's amusement.

That same year his picture also made national news, after his garden was overrun with Chinese tourists visiting Kidlington.

READ THE STORY - When Chinese tourists stared into people's homes in Kidlington 

Oxford Mail:

Mr Wheeler with Chinese tourists in Kidlington in 2016. Picture by Tony Bennell

Friendly Mr Wheeler went outside to chat to the tourists, after coachloads mysteriously turned up in the village.

While some villagers grumbled about people taking pictures of their homes, he told the Oxford Mail he found the situation 'hilarious.'

At the age of 19, Mr Wheeler appeared in this paper after being appointed the youngest police constable in Oxford.

He became a police inspector at the traffic base in Bicester and retired from the force in 1992, after 32 years.

Oxford Mail:

Pictured: John Wheeler when he was 18 in 1962. He had just been appointed as a constable with Oxford City Police having been a police cadet. John is seen here shaking the hand of his 87-year-old grandfather James Pearce - former acting Chief Constable of Buckingham Police up to 1926.

For more than 20 years thereafter he ran a driving school for motorists and motorcyclists, running training courses in the Kassam Stadium car park.

Former Oxford Mail assistant editor John Chipperfield, who pens this paper's Memory Lane pages, has known Mr Wheeler since childhood.

ALSO READ: John's shock as 18th leap year birthday story goes viral

He said: "He would often visit his two cousins, who lived two doors down from us in New Marston.

"We were at Southfield Grammar School together [now Oxford Spires Academy] and he became well known as a police officer, particularly as a traffic officer.

"Later he became a driving instructor and taught hundreds of people to drive, including my daughter and son.

"He was one of the friendliest people you could meet. Talking to him outside his home, he would know everyone who drove or walked by and exchange a friendly greeting.

"Everyone is devastated to have lost such a great friend."

Chris Payne, who broke news of the tragedy on the Nostalgic Oxford page, described him as a 'great family man with a zest for life unmatched.'

A friend commented: "John Wheeler was one of the most genuine, kind, caring, warm-hearted human beings I have ever met.

"A true gentleman who has been in my life for many years. Rest well Sir."

Several of Mr Wheeler’s friends on Facebook updated their profile pictures to a black box with a thin blue line through it – a mark of mourning for someone in law enforcement.

Many motorists shared memories of how he had taught them to drive.

ALSO READ: Mr Wheeler's concerns about 'dangerous' motorbike test manoeuvre

One mother wrote: "He was such a safe driver, he taught both of my kids to drive, and was a kind, caring man to my family.

"It was a pleasure to know him, my heart goes out to his family."

Oxford Mail:

Mr Wheeler pictured with his motorbike in the Oxford Mail in 2011. Pic: Damian Halliwell

One well-wisher said Mr Wheeler died ‘doing what he loved’ while a Kidlington resident said the village 'will not be the same.'

Kidlington county councillor Maurice Billington said the keen motorcyclist was a 'fantastic man.'

He explained how, early in his police career, Mr Wheeler knocked on his family's door in 1976 bearing tragic information.

Mr Billington's mother had been fatally knocked down by a car, and it was officer Wheeler who broke the news.

The councillor said: "He was only young at the time, it must have been early in his career.

"He was a lovely chap and I was very fond of him. He was very well-known."

Richard Vendome added: "He was such a special man, kind and larger than life.

"It was always a treat to turn into Manor Way and see John cleaning his car or motorcycle, knowing that you were in for some wise and witty conversation."

Thames Valley Police has appealed for witnesses of the collision.

Senior investigating officer Sergeant Gary Doughty said: "This was a tragic incident which has sadly seen a motorcyclist lose his life."

Anybody who saw the collision or who has dash-cam footage from the area has been urged to call 101, quoting reference number 43190091953.

Did you know John Wheeler? We want to hear your memories

Hundreds of people have been paying tribute to the community legend. Did you know John? Did you work alongside him in the force? Were you taught to drive by John? Let us know!

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