Business

Saturday 23 September 2017

Police hunting assassins as wife claims gunmen sought cash

Philip Blenkinsop and Robert-Jan Bartunek

BELGIAN police are hunting for two men after a British executive working for the oil company ExxonMobil was shot dead in front of his wife in a Brussels street in an assassination-style killing.

Prosecutors investigating the murder of the British oil executive imposed a news blackout after the man was killed as he walked to his car after dinner at an Italian restaurant.

ExxonMobil is currently looking for oil in Irish waters together with Dublin-listed Providence Resources.

Shocked

A woman who lived opposite where the couple had parked their car said she had heard three shots and then called the police.

When she went out to investigate, she recognised Mr Mockford's wife as a customer of her husband's hairdresser.

"She was clearly shocked and she said that they had demanded, 'money, money, car, car'. Those were the words she heard. One would imagine it was a car-jacking," she said.

Police initially suspected Mr Mockford had been killed in a failed car hijacking, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters, though the couple's Lexus sports utility vehicle had not been taken after the shooting.

Marcello Minacapelli, the owner of the Italian restaurant, said the couple, who were not regulars, had left at about 10pm on the Sunday evening, but he had not seen the incident.

Brussels prosecutors said they were not prepared to comment further on the details or circumstances of the case until the perpetrators were caught.

Mr Mockford was a manager within the chemicals arm of ExxonMobil and had worked over a period of 38 years in Britain, Belgium and Singapore.

ExxonMobil Belgium confirmed he had worked as a department head at its office in Machelen, on the outskirts of Brussels.

"Of course we are all shocked," a company spokesman said.

"There is no indication that the incident was work-related."

No one was willing to comment when Reuters called Mr Mockford's family home in Grimbergen, an affluent town just north of the capital Brussels.

Irish Independent

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