A senior police officer in Wiltshire who hanged himself while under investigation over claims he sexually harassed women colleagues was not properly vetted, authorities have admitted.

Deputy chief constable David Ainsworth, 49, of Wiltshire Police, hanged himself in his garage in March last year fearing he would "lose everything" and believing his family would be better off without him if he took his own life.

Both the then-chief constable Brian Moore, who moved to become head of the UK Border Force, a job he has now left, and the police authority simply assumed Mr Ainsworth had been vetted, a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary said.

The mistaken view that the vetting of senior officers in England and Wales was automatic was found "across a number of forces" and must be addressed, it added.

But the police authority's chairman Christopher Hoare said key issues in Mr Ainsworth's case, which involved up to 24 complaints from women, "have been either 'glossed over' or omitted altogether" in the HMIC's report.

These included how officers can reach senior positions without appropriate vetting and how conduct matters can be left unchecked, he said.

"With regard to officer vetting, as part of their current professional role HMIC make recommendations on all senior appointments to both the Home Secretary and the appointing police authority," he said.

"It has done so for decades without, it seems, routinely checking if these officers had received even the most basic vetting."

Mr Hoare went on: "Wiltshire Police Authority would not apparently have been alone in assuming that in recruiting a deputy chief constable the candidate, having been cleared by HMIC and recommended by them to both the Home Secretary and to us, would have been vetted.

"I believe also that a majority of the public would assume that senior police officers could not be appointed without an automatic vetting process which assessed them at an appropriate level."