Police have yet to establish a motive for the killing of Alan Singleton and Simon Bruno at Chestergate Autos in Stockport. Officers are not ruling out mistaken identity but have also suggested that the local trade in stolen MoT certificates could be significant.
Police said the two men were following up inquiries concerning an alleged irregularity in the issue of an MoT certificate at the garage when they were shot with a double-barrelled 12-bore shotgun. It was a general inquiry and they were not working under cover.
Inquiries by the Independent yesterday established that thieves in Stockport have become so reckless that local garages burgled for certificates include one just across the road from the vehicle testing station where the two murdered men were based. Thieves broke into Trevan Garage in Lingard Lane six months ago and stole an unspecified number of certificates that have not been recovered. The garage is yards away from Bredbury district office of the Department of Transport, where officials are understood to be helping local police with the investigation into the theft.
One local garage owner said that it was well known that stolen certificates were readily available in the area. 'I've been approached myself in a pub. They get chatting with you to make sure you're not a policeman or anything, then make you an offer.'
Stockport was 'littered' with people driving 'old bangers' who would rather pay pounds 50 for a bogus certificate than face a bill running into hundreds of pounds to make their car roadworthy.
Detective Chief Superintendent Rod Murray, of Greater Manchester Police, said police and the Department of Transport worked closely together when investigating such matters as stolen MoT certificates. He said: 'Stockport has no greater problem with the theft and sale of what we might describe as 'bent' MoTs than any other town in the area.' But it appeared to be a 'big problem'.
He said several lines of inquiry were being followed. Police want to trace an orange Transit van and a red Sierra saloon that were seen around the time of the incident.
Detectives are trying to establish whether Mr Singleton, 50, and Mr Bruno, 28, had made an appointment to visit the garage, which services vehicles and supplies exhausts and tyres.
Mr Singleton and Mr Bruno arrived at the garage at about 3.30pm. Shortly afterwards, a man shot them dead from close range.
The Retail Motor Industry Federation yesterday offered pounds 25,000 for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the murders.