The partner of a much-loved Barnstaple fisherman who died suddenly has paid tribute to the Specsavers team who gave him extra months of life.

Paul Spearman, 59, died of a heart attack at home in the early hours of November 26, having undergone complex surgery months earlier for a triple aneurysm.

Karen Thorne, Paul's partner of 19 years, was shocked when she found him, because his surgery had seemed successful.

She said: "Paul was a very big character and I loved him dearly. He had such a great attitude to life, and this has been such a shock. After all he went through with the operation, I thought he would outlive me."

Paul's aneurysms came to light when he attended the Barnstaple Specsavers at Sainsbury's.

He was having a check-up when the optometrist noticed extensive haemorrhaging at the back of the eye, which indicated his blood pressure was dangerously high.

They suggested he see his GP straightaway, and he was then sent to North Devon District Hospital, where he spent nine days before being referred to London for an operation.

Doctors found three aneurysms in his main aorta, the largest artery in the human body.

Following the successful operation, Paul was keen to raise awareness about the need for people to have regular eye tests because of the wider health benefits they can have.

Karen added: "A lot of people with a health condition are in a similar situation as Paul, but they don't know it. Paul didn't, but the people at Specsavers saw it and made sure he went to a GP immediately - so they gave him extra months of life.

"I'll always be really grateful for that, and I know he wanted other people to be aware of what happened to him and to avoid putting off going for an eye test.

"The staff at Specsavers were so wonderful. They all loved him. He was someone people just took to."

Hannow Mahmood, who was the optician testing Paul, said the news of his death has shocked staff.

She added: "Everyone here has been very saddened by it. We all got to know Mr Spearman really well. He was a genuinely nice man.

"His case was quite dramatic, highlighting the importance of regular eye tests, because he was feeling well in himself but his condition was actually very serious.

"This is often the case, where the patient is completely unaware that there is an underlying issue, and I am always very pleased to be able to help them.

"My job is all about giving people the best quality of life, whether it's simply helping them have the best vision possible or spotting things such as diabetes, high blood pressure or even tumours."