NICHOLAS Mockford, a British executive for the oil company ExxonMobil has been shot dead in front of his wife in an assassination-style killing in Brussels.
Belgian police have imposed a news blackout after Nicholas Mockford (60) was shot as he left an Italian restaurant in Neder-over-Heembeek, a suburb of the capital.
The executive was shot three times, once as he lay on the ground, after leaving the Da Marcello restaurant in Rue de Beyseghem at around 10pm on Oct 14.
His wife, Mary, was left beaten and covered in blood. Mr Mockford died on the way to hospital.
Witnesses said they saw the couple walk across the street to their car, a silver Lexus 4x4, before shots were fired.
The attack was said to have happened very quickly and Mrs Mockford was left cradling her husband in the street, shouting for help. According to reports, two men were seen running away carrying a motorcycle helmet.
Initially police said they were not excluding any possibilities, including a carjacking, but Mr Mockford's car was not stolen.
The Belgian prosecutor's office said last night that there was a "judicial instruction" from Martine Quintin, the investigating judge, that meant they could give no "explanation" and no detail about the killing.
"This is usual in such a serious murder investigation," a spokesman said.
Mr Mockford had worked for the company since the 1970s, and was the head of marketing for interim technologies for ExxonMobil Chemicals, Europe, promoting new types of greener fuel.
He was a keen sailor and was the skipper of an Exxon team who won first prize in a race in the Channel last year aboard their yacht Musette.
He was also interested in motor cycling. Mr Mockford had been married to his second wife, who is Belgian, for 15 years, and
had three grown-up children from his first marriage, all of whom live in Britain.
He was brought up in Leicestershire and had last lived in this country in Chichester, but had been abroad for some years, mostly in Belgium and Singapore.
One family member said he believed Mr Mockford had been killed in a professional hit.
The relation, who asked not to be named, said: "We are all confused about what has happened. Nick was a genuinely lovely, clean-cut, mild mannered, family man.
"I don't think he would put up a fight or argue with someone trying to steal his company car.
"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."
A spokesman for ExxonMobil said: "We are shocked by the tragic death of one of our employees on Sunday, October 14 in Brussels.
"Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues and we are supporting them as best we can at this very difficult time."
The relation said Mrs Mockford was recovering from the ordeal and had not been badly hurt. "He was always very tight-lipped about what he did, even when sitting around with the family," the relation added.
By Duncan Gardham, Bruno Waterfield and Emily Gosden Telegraph.co.uk