Four teenagers were being hunted by police yesterday after a shopkeeper was killed for a handful of sweets, cigarettes and cash.
Gurmail Singh, 63, was attacked in his shop in Cowliffe, Huddersfield, during a robbery carried out by four youths who left him dying in a pool of blood. The shopkeeper suffered a severe head injury during the attack, which took place at about 8.30pm on Saturday, and died in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary early yesterday morning.
Six people who witnessed the robbery tried to stop the youths, who were described as in their late teens, escaping from the Cowcliffe Convenience Store by blocking the exits, but were unable to prevent them fleeing. It was unclear yesterday how Mr Singh sustained his fatal injury, but at least one of the witnesses reported that one of the youths was carrying a hammer. Police were also looking at the possibility that another weapon was used or that Mr Singh was either punched to the ground or kicked in the head while lying prone. A post-mortem examination will be carried out today to establish the nature of the assault.
Just two days before the robbery Mr Singh, a family man with two adult sons, confronted two youths who attempted to steal from the till before grabbing some cigarettes and fleeing. Detectives were yesterday trying to establish if the same youths were involved in Saturday's robbery and killing, and if they had deliberately targeted the store seeking revenge.
A neighbour, Ian Davison, said the shopkeeper had experienced problems in his store with four youths, and that he was reluctant to take them on "because they were a lot bigger than him".
He said of the victim: "He was a really popular, lovely bloke. Even in the snow he was pulling his sledge up here with his grandson, making sure the papers got delivered."
Sharon Pickup, landlady of the nearby Shepherds Arms pub, said: "There was an awful lot of blood. Mr Singh was lying in a pool of blood on the floor in the corner."
Neighbours reported hearing a series of loud bangs which they initially feared was gunfire, but turned out to be the sound of bottles exploding in the shop after being thrown by the robbers. West Yorkshire Police said a small quantity of cash, cigarettes and confectionery was stolen during the raid. The youths were dressed in dark hooded tops and track suit bottoms.
Det Supt David Pervin said: "Mr Singh was a well-known and popular local businessman who had been in this area many years. I appeal for anyone with information to contact us as a matter of urgency.
"In terms of the witnesses, we can confirm this was a group of six people who heard a commotion at the shop and went to help. None of them was injured during the incident."
A spokesman for the force added: "We are also investigating whether there is any link with an incident on Thursday evening in which two youths tried to steal something from the shop and were in an altercation with Mr Singh – we are still looking into the full details of that."
Neighbours were appalled at the loss of a man they described as "a gentleman". Sandra Ward said Mr Singh provided the community with a "fantastic service" by working long hours to keep the store open late seven days a week, and that he often had his grandchildren in the store with him.
She added: "I am absolutely devastated by this". Another neighbour, Dean Batler, said the storekeeper was well-liked and dedicated to the community: "He would always thank you for your business however little you bought. This is terrible."Reuse content