The body of a father-of-one was found in a recycling plant after he went missing following a Christmas night out.
Jay McLaren, 28, didn't arrive home after going out with friends before Christmas, and his disappearance was reported to police.
Officers found his body at a recycling plant in Houghton, County Durham, and believe he climbed into a bin after the night out a few miles away.
According to the Sunday league he played in, he'd contacted his fiancee around 10.55pm on 22 December, and been seen online around 2.10am on 23 December.
A Northumbria Police spokesman said: "The last confirmed sighting of Jay is at 4.15am on Saturday December 23 outside Arizona and Purple bar.
"From here, he is understood to have been taken to the recycling plant after entering a bin that was later collected in the early hours of Saturday.
"Jay's family are being supported by specialist officers and wish to send a message to drinkers and party-goers to stay safe on a night out, particularly as New Year's Eve approaches.
"They're urging people to stay together and keep an eye out for friends."
Mr McLaren was said to be a keen footballer. He was engaged, and the father of a two-year-old girl.
Police are not looking for suspects but have appealed for information.
In a tribute on Facebook, Nathan Hudson wrote: "Totally devastated about this…. he was the nicest lad".
Paul Wilkinson added: "Immense midfielder like. Nice lad too."
The Sunderland Sunday League posted: "We are absolutely devastated to announce the passing of Jay McLaren. All our thoughts are with Jay's fiancé, daughter, family and friends at this extremely sad time. RIP Jay – you will never be forgotten.
"We will be donating all Total Sport Challenge Cup entry fees and all money raised at all of this seasons cup finals to Jay McLaren's fiancé & family."
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At the beginning of December, Mr McLaren had shared images of his daughter on Facebook, and said she had helped him realise his purpose in life.
The case bears a resemblance to that of missing RAF gunner Corrie McKeague. Extensive searches of a landfill site have not brought any evidence of his whereabouts after he went missing in September 2016.
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