60-year-old Nicholas Mockford, an Exxon-Mobil executive, was shot dead on October 14 as he left an Italian restaurant in a suburb of Brussels.
Reportedly, two men wearing crash helmets were seen fleeing from the scene in a white van after an altercation between the assailants and Mockford’s wife.
Witnesses said the two men had tried to snatch her handbag before shooting Mockford four times in the chest and shoulder. Mockford died en route to hospital.
“I heard a noise, ‘tack tack’, I thought that was bizarre and went to outside to look”, a man told Belgian TV channel VTM.
“There was a woman lying on the floor on the pavement on the other side of the road. She was crying ‘help, help’. There was also a man lying on the street, next to a car. The woman shouts out it was a white van”.
Originally, it was thought the murder was not reported due to a media blackout requested by the police but it is common for Belgian police to withhold from commenting on an investigation in its immediate aftermath.
Despite initial reports of the crime being linked to an attempted car-jacking, Mockford’s car was not stolen.
Mockford’s executive position at US oil titan ExxonMobil, for whom he had worked since the 1970s, has fuelled speculation that he had been the victim of a professional hit.
An anonymous family member told The Telegraph they believed Mockford had been assassinated:
“He was shot so calmly and so quickly, it smacks horrible of a professional hit, but we can’t fathom why.”
“He was always very tight-lipped about what he did, even when sitting around with the family" the family member added.
A Belgian police officer told the BBC that the murder was a “very strange case”.
But ExxonMobil have declared that the death was not linked to his role in the company:
“We are shocked by the tragic death of Nick Mockford”, a spokesman said. “Mr Mockford was a department manager at our office close to Brussels, but we have no indication that the incident was work-related”.
The Belgian federal authorities continue the hunt.