Professional hitman may have killed wrong man: Victim shot in front of four-year-old son

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A MAN who was shot down in front of his wife and four-year-old son may have been the victim of a professional 'hit' that went wrong.

Terry Maidens, 34, was shot twice with a sawn-off shotgun after his wife opened the door of their home in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, to a motorcyclist she believed was a pizza delivery man who had come to the wrong address. Last night, police could find no motive for the attack except that the killer may have gone to the wrong house.

Mr Maidens was a manufacturing manager at Linpac Mouldings, a Birmingham-based plastics firm. He had been an employee for 19 years and met his wife, Catherine, when she worked at the company's accounts department. They had three sons aged one, four and 10.

One officer involved in the case said Mr Maidens was not known to police and early inquiries had left detectives baffled as to a motive. But he added: 'The estate in Whitestone (Nuneaton) where the attack took place is very nice and very quiet, but it is a warren of closes and culs-de-sac. The houses are new and look very similar. We can't rule out the possibility that the gunman went to the wrong address. That possibility is being treated with a sense of priority.'

The killer struck at 7.50pm on Wednesday. Mr Maidens had taken his 10-year-old son Tony to a Scout meeting and had returned home. He was sitting with four-year-old Lee on his lap when there was a knock on the door.

Mrs Maidens looked out of the living room window and saw a man with a full-face helmet. One officer said she assumed that it was a pizza man, but when she opened the door she was brushed aside.

The caller walked past her and into the lounge. When Mr Maidens removed Lee from his lap and stood up, the gunman blasted him in the head at close range and, as he fell, fired another shot into his chest.

According to Detective Superintendent Tony Bayliss, the killer then 'calmly walked out of the house and into the night'. He said: 'The killing of Terry Maidens was cold, was calculated and was as callous as one can imagine. It is unclear what could possibly have motivated such a brutal murder. What is certain is that Mr Maidens' killer is extremely dangerous and must be caught immediately.'

Yesterday, police questioned friends, family and colleagues of Mr Maidens in Nuneaton and in Southend, Essex, from where the family moved in 1991. 'These (inquiries) have failed to offer a single explanation for the killing,' Mr Bayliss said. 'Mr Maidens was an outward- going man, a keen rugby fan whose wife, Catherine, is at a loss to understand what could have led to his murder.'

The assailant was described as being 5ft 11ins tall and unshaven. He was wearing an Air Force-blue full- face crash helmet, a lighter blue quilted waist-length jacket and ankle boots. Police say he may not necessarily have used a motorbike to get to and from the shooting.