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Police launch murder investigation
Friday 13th November 2015 @ 18:11 by Nigel Skinner
Ashton Community News Stalybridge

Picture: Victim James Ray dies on his 70th birthday

A murder investigation has been launched after a man was killed and had his van stolen in Ashton.

Police were called to Plantation Industrial Estate in Ashton to a report of serious assault just at 12.05pm on yesterday.

Emergency services attended and discovered 69-year-old James Ray with serious head injuries.

He was taken to Hope Hospital but sadly he died in the early hours of today – on what would have been his 70th birthday.

Police believe the offenders parked on the estate in a silver Ford Fiesta, stole Mr Ray’s van and left the scene in both vehicles.

A short time later the van was found abandoned on Clarence Street in Stalybridge. The Fiesta was discovered in the early hours of this morning in the Heywood area.

A 23-year-old man and a 44-year-old man have been arrested by police on suspicion of murder and remain in custody for questioning.

Mr Ray’s family said: “We are completely and utterly devastated by the death of James who was killed on the very day of his birthday.  He has left behind his wife, a son, a daughter and four grandchildren who are stunned by this abhorrent act of violence.

“We all hope that people will come forward to report anything they may know that may help the police.”

Detective Superintendent Jon Chadwick said: “We have made two arrests but the investigation is continuing and we are still seeking information.

“We believe there is at least one other person outstanding and I would appeal to anyone who may have witnessed the van and Fiesta being driven erratically to contact police.   I would also appeal to anyone who knows who owns the Fiesta or who has been using it in recent days and weeks to call us.

“The registration of the Fiesta is SD02 HYL and has damage to the front driver’s side wing.  James’ van was a grey Ford Transit with registration YB11 HXV and as it was driven off, the sliding door on the passenger side was damaged and was hanging off.

“James’ family are understandably devastated and we have got specially trained officers providing them with the support they need during this tragic time.

“Today would have been James’ 70th birthday and his family were planning on holding a party for him.  Now, instead of celebrating a happy occasion, they are mourning the loss of a much loved person and planning his funeral.

“It is possible that this may be a robbery that has gone wrong, however that doesn’t change the fact that a man has been killed and I would urge anybody with information to please contact the police as soon as possible.”

Anybody with information is asked to contact police on 0161 856 8092 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.