Mike Samwell suffered fatal injuries after he went to confront the intruders who had broken into his home as he slept upstairs with his wife, Jessica, at 3am this morning.
The 35-year-old victim, who was a University of Leeds graduate, was found badly injured in a parking area at the rear of the house in the Chorlton area of Manchester. He died little more than an hour later in hospital.
Greater Manchester Police officers believe that Mr Samwell was run over at least once as he tried to prevent the intruder or intruders from escaping with his black Audi S3 sports coupe.
Detective Superintendent Jon Chadwick said: “This is the murder of an innocent man who has merely sought to protect his property from criminals.”
Det Supt Chadwick added it is thought that Mr Samwell went downstairs at his home after he had heard noises coming from the ground floor.
The detective added: “We will not stop until we have found the person responsible for this dreadful crime.”
Mr Samwell’s car was later found badly damaged and abandoned three miles away in Whitby Avenue in the Ladybarn area of the city.
His killer or killers last night remained on the run and a murder investigation has been launched.
Mrs Samwell had been left “devastated” and was being comforted by her family, according to Det Supt Mr Chadwick.
He added that detectives knew Mr Samwell went downstairs after being alerted by noises and ended up out the back of the house where he was hit by the car.
Cranbourne Road, where the crime took place, was cordoned off yesterday afternoon as forensics experts from the Greater Manchester force combed the scene for key evidence.
Det Supt Chadwick appealed for witnesses to come forward and urged the “criminal fraternity” to help find Mr Samwell’s killer or killers.
He added: “It’s a nice, quiet, leafy place. Anything happening at 3am would stand out a mile.
“It is one of those things where you would expect the criminal fraternity to help us out with. It’s more than criminal.”
According to LinkedIn, Mr Samwell trained as a naval officer at Britannia Royal Naval College in Devon and spent about a decade in the senior service before leaving in 2014.
The page says the University of Leeds graduate worked in several roles, including on board a nuclear attack submarine as a weapons officer.
Since leaving the Royal Navy, Mr Samwell had worked as a programme manager for engineering firm Atkins in Warrington, Cheshire.
An Atkins spokesman said: “This is a tragic event and our thoughts go out to Mike’s family, friends and colleagues.
“We will support the family in any way we can.”