Widow appeals for help in catching murderer

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The widow of an elderly motorist who died after being dragged from his car and brutally beaten as he stopped to ask for directions yesterday pleaded for his attacker to be caught.

As a hunt continued for the man who assaulted Stevan Popovich, aged 74, in Leeds, West Yorkshire, his widow, Dragica, said: "It is just unbelievable that he should stop to ask someone the way and be beaten to death.

"He was the sort of man who would do anything for anybody. I just hope and pray they catch whoever did this before it happens to someone else."

Yugoslav-born Mr Popovich, a retired bus driver, was attacked as he stopped to ask for directions to a hotel in the Chapeltown area, where he was to meet friends. They were to travel to a meeting of a Serbian group in Leicester. Police said he suffered a heart attack after being repeatedly kicked. Despite his injuries he hung on to his Lada car as the man, described as of Afro-Caribbean appearance, drove it away.

Mrs Popovich, 65, said at the couple's home in Shaw, near Oldham, Greater Manchester, that her husband had done a lot of charity work to help refugees in the former Yugoslavia, where they both had family members.

The couple met in a camp in Germany after they fled Yugoslavia at the end of the Second World War.

"We were so happy here and we had so many English friends," said Mrs Popovich. "Stevan loved the people here. He just trusted people. He has never hurt anybody in his life. He has never been nasty to anyone.

Detective Superintendent Andy Brown, who is leading the hunt for the killer, confirmed that the motive for the assault was robbery. Mr Popovich was killed for the pounds 50 he had in his wallet, his wedding ring and wrist watch.

He was just one street away from the hotel he was heading for, the Adriatic, when he got lost at about 8.20am. He stopped and wound down his window to ask directions from a young man, but was dragged from his seat, kicked and punched and robbed.

Mr Popovich was pulled along the road for about 15 yards as he tried to stop the youth stealing his car. He suffered fractured ribs and died later in hospital without regaining consciousness.

Chapeltown, which has an 80 per cent Afro-Caribbean population, is infamous in Leeds for violence and drug dealing.