A cook found dead in a freezer at the primary school where she worked may have killed herself over a credit card debt, it was reported.

Police said the body of Linda Gent, 53, was discovered at South Benfleet Primary School in Benfleet, Essex, last month 15 hours after being reported missing.

Sources said detectives were not treating the incident as murder, but a report was being prepared for a coroner. Police said a post-mortem examination had failed to reveal a cause of death and further tests were being carried out.

The woman's husband, Graham Gent, was quoted in the Daily Mirror as telling friends that his wife may have committed suicide because she was worried about a £400 credit card bill.

"Linda suffered from manic depression and she had been taking pills just before she died," he said. "The only thing I can think of that may have pushed her to her death was that we have a £400 credit card bill. It had played on her mind.

"Although we were paying it off at a rate of £100 a month, she hated the fact that we were in debt."

Mrs Gent had worked at the school since the late 1980s and staff and children were said to be "devastated".

"Everyone connected with South Benfleet Primary School has been devastated by the sudden death of Linda Gent, our school cook," said head Dominic Carver.

"Mrs Gent was a hugely popular and highly-valued member of our catering team. Her positive contribution of about 20 years at the school has been magnificent."

Officials at education authority Essex County Council said news of Mrs Gent's death was broken to pupils after they arrived at school on September 29.