Lost driver, 74, beaten to death

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The Independent Online
POLICE in West Yorkshire opened a murder inquiry yesterday after a man aged 74 was beaten to death when he stopped his car to ask directions.

The savage death of Stevan Popovic, a Yugoslav refugee, in the Chapeltown area of Leeds early yesterday morning has thrown Britain's Serbian community into mourning.

Today, the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in Bradford is expected to be crowded with mourners offering prayers for him.

Mr Popovic, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, was driving to a hotel to meet a friend he had known for 50 years. From there they were due to drive to Leicester for a meeting of the Serbian Chetnik Association, of which Mr Popovic was vice-president. He was just a few streets from the hotel when he stopped his Lada car at about 8.30am to ask directions.

Mr Popovic's attacker pulled him from his car, beat and kicked him, stole his wedding ring, wallet and wristwatch and drove off in his car, dragging him along the road for a short distance.

He was found in a pool of blood and taken to St James's Hospital in Leeds, but died later. A post-mortem confirmed he died of a heart attack caused by his injuries. The car was found abandoned about an hour later less than a mile away.

Detective Superintendent Andy Brown, leading the hunt for the killer, said: "This was a savage and unprovoked attack on an elderly gentleman who appeared to have lost his way.

"The attacker must be caught and caught quickly."

Police are looking for a tall, stocky, light-skinned Afro-Caribbean man in his late teens or early twenties with short curly hair, shaved down the back and sides. He was wearing a dark leather jacket and a green shirt.

Mr Popovic's widow, Dragica, and his two sons, Milan and Alecks, were being comforted last night. Alvina Miodrag, the wife of the friend Mr Popovic was to meet in the hotel, said yesterday that she and her husband were deeply shocked. "My husband had not been very far from him. It's so terrible," she said.

Mr Popovic, or "Pop" as he was known, was a kind and gentle man who had been a war hero. He came to England in 1948 after Communists took power in Yugoslavia.

Fr Nedic, his priest, said: "He was a proud man who fought the Communists and then fled across Italy and Germany to Britain. He arrived with just pounds 1 in his pocket but he built up a good life and a good family."

The Chapeltown area of Leeds, where Mr Popovic met his death, has a reputation for violence, prostitution and drug-dealing. Last year a man was shot dead opposite the scene of yesterday's murder, and the suburb is the scene of many muggings and armed robberies.

n A man's right ear was cut off after he refused to hand over his Chinese meal to a gang in Newcastle upon Tyne yesterday.