A British oil executive gunned down in Brussels could have been the victim of targeted assassination or a random mugging and car-jacking attempt, Belgian police have said.
Nearly two weeks after 60-year old Nicholas Mockford was shot dead in a quiet suburb after a night out with his wife, a police spokeswoman said: "All lines of inquiry are being pursued".
Mr Mockford, a departmental manager at ExxonMobil's office near the Belgian capital, was shot four times and died on his way to hospital.
The attack came when he strolled back to his car with his Belgian wife after the couple had dined at a small Italian restaurant in the quiet residential suburb of Neder-Over-Heembeek in northern Brussels. First his wife was badly beaten in what police say could have been an attempted handbag snatch. Then the attackers, believed to be two men wearing crash helmets, turned their attention to Mr Mockford, shooting him in the chest, shoulder and head.
Local residents in the street of small terraced houses went to help but he died before an ambulance could get him to hospital. The attack was reported in Belgian newspapers at the time, but with few details about the identity of the victims.
When Mr Mockford's link to a global oil company emerged, police confirmed that a targeted attack on a specific individual was one obvious line of inquiry. But a spokeswoman for ExxonMobil said that, although the death was a shock, there was nothing to suggest a link with the company.
However, one family member, who asked not to be named, told the Daily Telegraph that they thought he was killed in a professional hit. The relation said: "We are all confused about what has happened. Nick was a genuinely lovely, clean-cut, mild-mannered family man."
He added: "He was shot so calmly and so quickly, it smacks horribly of a professional hit, but we can't fathom why. He isn't the type to cave in to blackmail and it just doesn't compute."
The area of the shooting, a nondescript, little known part of the city well away from nightlife, restaurants and cinemas, is seen as an unlikely location for an opportunistic attack, particularly involving firearms. However, the fact that the couple's car was a high-value Lexus 4x4 reinforced the idea of car-jacking as a motive, even though the car was not actually stolen.
Mr Mockford is understood to have worked for ExxonMobil since the 1970s and was head of marketing for interim technologies for ExxonMobil Chemicals, Europe, promoting new types of greener fuel. Brought up in Leicestershire, he moved abroad from Chichester some years ago, living in Belgium and Singapore. He had been married to his Belgian wife for 15 years and is reported to have three grown-up children living in Britain from his first marriage.