Linzi Ashton murder: Three arrested in the hunt for Michael Cope

Police granted extra time to question the 25-year-old man arrested on Monday

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The Independent Online

Officers have been granted more time to question the 25-year-old man arrested on Monday as two other men aged 26 and 27 were also arrested on Tuesday evening, police have confirmed.

All three remain in custody on suspicion of assisting an offender.

Detectives are continuing their search for local man Michael Cope, who is wanted for questioning in connection with the “sustained and vicious” murder of mother-of-two Linzi Ashton.

Police have appealed for help in trying to trace Cope after Ms Ashton's body was discovered at her home in Winton, Salford on Saturday. On Tuesday Greater Manchester Police (GMP) released CCTV footage of him at a shop purchasing snacks just hours before it is believed the young mother was murdered.

The CCTV images show him buying food and drinks from Best One on Liverpool Road, Eccles, at about 10.45pm on Friday.

In the video Cope can be seen wearing a black coat with the hood pulled up over his cap whilst buying bags of crisps and fizzy drinks.

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

Police had been seeking to arrest Cope since the end of April following a complaint of sexual assault made against him by Ms Ashton.

Chief Supt Kevin Mulligan said: “Our efforts to trace Michael Cope are ongoing and we have released this footage in the hope that people may recognise the man filmed, whom we believe to be Michael.

”We believe that this sighting is from before Linzi's murder, and we also believe that at some point on Friday night he was with Linzi.

“At this moment Cope knew that he was wanted by police, which is why we think he is wearing a hooded top. It is also possible that Cope will have changed his clothes since this sighting.

”I also want to reiterate that Cope is a dangerous man and should not be approached. Anyone who sees him should call 999 immediately.“

Independent charity Crimestoppers is offering a £5,000 reward for anyone who has information leading to his arrest and conviction.

”His picture has been widely circulated but he has still not handed himself in, so it likely that he is being offered sanctuary by his associates. That is why we are announcing this reward of £5,000 for anyone who has information leading to Cope's arrest and conviction,“ Mr Mulligan added.

”I would also to repeat what we have said before to anyone who is harbouring Cope that we will take action against you. You might think you a doing a mate a favour, but do you really want to spend time behind bars for this man? We will also be working with our partner agencies to look at evicting anyone who is using their property to offer this man safety.“

Mr Mulligan said GMP's handling of Miss Ashton's case has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Additional reporting by PA