Salford student killing is being treated as hate crime, say police

Racial motive possible in Boxing Day shooting previously considered a random attack

Police investigating the murder of an Indian student said yesterday they were treating it as a hate crime and were not ruling out a racial motive.

Anuj Bidve, 23, was shot at point-blank range as he walked with friends near a hotel in Salford in the early hours of Boxing Day.

Chief Superintendent Kevin Mulligan, the divisional commander for Salford, said yesterday: "We have not established a clear motive for the senseless murder, and there is no definitive evidence pointing to it being racially-motivated. However, we are treating this as a hate crime based on the growing perceptions within the community it was motivated by hate."

A fifth suspect, aged 20, was arrested yesterday. A boy of 16, two youths aged 17 and a 19-year-old are also being held on suspicion of murder.

Mr Mulligan said the murder weapon, believed to be a small handgun, had not been found. "We are appealing for the community to come forward and give us information as to where that weapon may be," he added.

He said officers were searching a number of addresses in Salford and other parts of Greater Manchester. Forensic and ballistics examinations are being carried out and detectives are studying CCTV footage.

Mr Bidve was with a group of nine Indian students from Lancaster University who were visiting Manchester for a Christmas break. The men and women were walking from their hotel to the city centre past two men on the other side of the street.

The gunman, a white man in his 20s wearing a grey top, crossed the road and engaged Mr Bidve in conversation before pulling out a gun and shooting him in the side of the head. The killer then ran back across the street before the pair fled on foot towards the Ordsall housing estate. Mr Bidve died in hospital a short time later.

He was studying for a micro- electronics postgraduate qualification at Lancaster University, and was described by tutors as "an outstanding applicant at the very beginning of a promising career".

His family in Pune, Maharashtra, said they had "lost faith in everything" as they struggled to come to terms with the tragedy.

Members of Mr Bidve's family have said they intend to fly to Manchester by the end of the week to take his body back to India.