THE death of a British oil executive who was gunned down in front of his wife in Belgium does not appear to be work-related, his employer said yesterday.
Nicholas Mockford, 60, an executive for ExxonMobil, was gunned down as he left an Italian restaurant in a suburb of Brussels.
He was shot three times, once as he lay on he floor, and his wife Mary was left beaten and covered in blood, cradling her husband and shouting for help. He died on the way to hospital.
Yesterday a spokeswoman for ExxonMobil said: “We were shocked by the tragic death of Nick Mockford, one of our employees a fortnight ago in Brussels. Mr Mockford was a department manager at our office close to Brussels, but we have no indication that the incident was work-related.
“Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues and we are supporting them as best we can at this very difficult time.”
Witnesses say they saw Mr Mockford and his wife walk across the street to their Lexus car before shots were fired.
Reports suggest two men were spotted running away from the scene, one holding a motorcycle helmet.
The shooting happened on October 14 but news about the attack has only emerged now because Belgian police imposed a news blackout, reports said.
The Daily Telegraph said police in Belgium were considering all possible motives for the shooting, including a carjacking, although Mr Mockford’s car was not stolen.
The Belgian prosecutor’s office said on Thursday 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, which a spokesman said was “usual in such a serious murder investigation”, the Telegraph reported.
However Chief Inspector Wim Van Leifferenge said the killing had been reported by media in the country since it happened.
Mr Van Leifferenge said no-one had been arrested and those responsible were still on the run.
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 had moved abroad from Chichester some years ago, living in Belgium and Singapore.
He was married to his Belgian wife for 15 years and has three grown-up children living in Britain from his first marriage, the Telegraph said.
A family member, who asked not to be named, told the newspaper they thought he had been 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.”