THE former teacher who inspired JK Rowling's Professor Snape has died aged 71.

Former Wyedean School teacher John Nettleship, who taught Joanne Rowling and who lived in Caerwent, died on March 12 following a long battle with cancer.

He had remained a highly-regarded member of the community throughout his life, not only through his profession as a teacher, but as a life-long Labour party activist, Caerwent community councillor, and family man.

The former head of science at Wyedean taught chemistry to JK Rowling when she was a pupil at the Sedbury school.

He is said to have been the inspiration behind the literary character, Professor Severus Snape, created by Rowling in her first Harry Potter book, and played by award-winning British actor, Alan Rickman in the Hollywood films. The books and film deal made JK Rowling a multi-millionaire.

Mr Nettleship was immensely proud of his connections with the Harry Potter series, as well as the many local places such as Tutshill, Chepstow, Sedbury, and the Forest of Dean that corresponded heavily with locations in the Harry Potter books.

In recent years, he appeared at Chepstow's Drill Hall and the Chepstow Bookshop, to give talks on the significant connections the areas had with the Potter books.

He even created a small book titled, Harry Potter's Chepstow, that depicted in intricate detail many local landmarks that held an uncanny resemblance to names and places featured in the books and subsequent films.

Speaking at the time he said: "As with all authors, their characters and places are devised from the people they knew and the area they are familiar with.

"Joanne grew up here and the people and places she came into contact with are woven into the tapestry of the books."

Matt Taylor, the owner of the Chepstow Bookshop, said: "It is very sad to hear of the loss of John. He was a lovely man and he will be very much missed."

Fellow Labour party member, Caldicot Cllr Tony Easson, said: "His death is a terrible loss for the community, the Labour party, and for many people in lower Monmouthshire."

Chepstow councillor Armand Watts said: "He has been an inspiration to me since I was 15-years-old. He invited me into the Labour party and was an extremely well-thought of and unique character. He will be sorely missed."

Mr Nettleship is survived by his wife, Shirley, and his three children and two step-children.

Mrs Nettleship spoke of her immense pride for her late husband and said: "He was a real advocate for people's rights, especially for women's rights. He was a dedicated campaigner for the Labour party and always believed in fighting for the underdog."

A spokesman for the author said: "JK Rowling has stated that she does not wish to comment."

Nr Nettleship's funeral will be held at 12 noon on March 21 at Caerwent Church.