A haulage boss was shot dead in an apparent gangland assassination while awaiting trial for drug smuggling, police revealed yesterday.
Dale Harvey was shot three times at point-blank range in his Mercedes as he was driving to work, in what detectives described as a "ruthless and arrogant" execution.
Mr Harvey, known as Ken, had stopped at a remote crossroads near Battle, East Sussex, when his assassins pulled alongside him in a stolen green Kawasaki 750 Ninja motorcycle.
The pillion passenger fired two shots from a small handgun at his stomach and one to the head before the bike sped off and was dumped near by. Detectives believe the fake registration plate "V1 LON" was meant to denote "villain" and was a taunt to detectives.
The attack happened at Cripps Corner on Monday morning as Mr Harvey drove the short distance from his home to his haulage business, Syncro Logistics, in the village of Broad Oak.
He underwent surgery but died in hospital on Wednesday with his family at his side. Police had refused to name him until he died amid fears for his safety and that of his wife, Tania, 32 and her four children, one of whom was Mr Harvey's child.
Sussex Police have interviewed about 300 potential witnesses near the scene of the crime and 100 officers are involved in the murder inquiry. Yesterday, they offered a £10,000 reward for information leading to the killers, who were wearing full-face blue safety helmets and sleeveless fluorescent yellow vests.
Detective Chief Inspector Reg Hooke said: "This was clearly well planned and whoever carried out the attack knew Mr Harvey's route to work. They were extremely confident and from their behaviour seemed to enjoy what they were doing. We think their numberplate was aimed at poking fun at the authorities.
"Because of their confidence, we know they will have talked about what they did. This has all the hallmarks of a contract killing." He added: "The killers showed breathtaking arrogance with the number plate joke. They are sticking two fingers up at the law."
Mr Harvey was on bail after being charged with two others who were due to appear in court in December for the importation of cocaine with a street value of £500,000.
Police have also discovered that his firm had run into financial trouble with one business struck off and county court judgements totalling £10,000 against two further businesses.
But detectives said that Mr Harvey had no previous convictions and was a man of "good character". Det Ch Insp Hooke said: "We don't know who wanted to kill him, we don't know why someone wanted to kill him and we don't know who they got to do it. Whoever did this had a deep hatred and desire to kill Mr Harvey."
Tania Harvey, 32, said at a police press conference in Hastings: "The events of Monday have left us devastated and destroyed our lives. I've lost my husband and my children have lost their father. He was there for us always. Everything he did was for us and he was a rock. Someone must have seen something please, please help us."
Detectives at the scene of the killing stopped and questioned more than 300 people, mainly motorists, in a bid to trace more witnesses and shed light on the exact circumstances surrounding the murder.