Police offer reward as hunt for suspected killer draws blank

THE family of murdered mother Linzi Ashton have spoken of their devastation at her death as detectives warned anyone harbouring her suspected killer would face prosecution.

Mother-of-two Linzi Ashton

Crimestoppers and Greater Manchester Police offered a £5,000 reward for information as detectives hunted the mother-of-two’s former boyfriend, Michael Cope.

Cope has not been seen since her body was discovered on Saturday evening.

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Police have been pursuing 28-year-old Cope since the end of April when Miss Ashton made an allegation of rape against him.

Mother-of-two Linzi Ashton

Miss Ashton, 25, who had also previously complained she had been a victim of domestic violence at Cope’s hands, was found with head and facial injuries at her home in Winton, Salford.

She had suffered what police called a “sustained and vicious” attack.

Superintendent Kevin Mulligan said: “If anyone is harbouring this individual they will be prosecuted. This is a serious offence and we need to track down this man.

“He does have a history of violent and aggressive behaviour and he does represent a risk to the community.

“His picture has been widely circulated but he has still not handed himself in, so it is likely that he is being offered sanctuary by his associates.”

The police confirmed Cope has previous convictions for violent behaviour and has served time in prison.

Cope was in a brief “acrimonious” relationship with the barmaid, who worked at the Duke of York pub in nearby Eccles.

Miss Ashton and Cope were seen out together in public in Salford on Friday night.

Liam Grime, the father of Miss Ashton’s daughter Daisy, revealed he was among the people who discovered her body 24 hours later.

Daisy, two, and her other daughter Destiny, seven, were not at the address at the time.

Mr Grime said: “I’m not going to go into the specifics but it was grim and the image will be 
forever burned in the back of my mind.

“Everybody loved her. She was the love of my life and there’s never going to be anybody like her, ever.

“I’ll never be able to find anyone like her. She was devoted to the kids, she was everyone’s friend, she put everybody first and she was a one off.”

In a statement, Miss Ashton’s family said: “Linzi was a much-loved daughter, sister, aunt and mum to two beautiful children, Destiny and Daisy.

“She was the most beautiful, generous, caring person anyone could ever wish to meet. She would never harm anyone and was always there for her children and family.

“She loved treating her girls to princess sleepovers, dressing up and baking for them.

“When she walked into a room it would light up with her energy and love.

“Life will never be the same again without her. Our whole family and friends have been devastated by her death. The whole community is in shock.”

Greater Manchester Police insists Miss Ashton’s complaints were taken seriously but it has referred the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The focus of the manhunt remained in Salford yesterday with a large police presence in the Winton area, although detectives have admitted he could be further afield.

Miss Ashton and Cope were thought to have visited at least one local address but police are still piecing together their full movements on the night.

It is thought Miss Ashton was last seen alive by a friend in the Eccles area shortly before 2am on Saturday.