Two suspects wanted in connection with a double-murder inquiry may have been killed, detectives have said.
West Midlands Police said so-called proof-of-life inquiries suggest 29-year-olds Ben Whyley and Ryan Hobday have either deliberately taken themselves “off the radar” or are both dead.
Hobday is wanted in connection with the fatal shooting of Daniel Shaw, and the disappearance and suspected murder of father-of-three Johnny Robbins.
Mr Shaw, aged 28, was found dead in the Tile Hill, Coventry, on March 25, four days after Mr Robbins, 33, went missing in the same area.
Detective Chief Inspector Chris Mallett told a news conference on Monday that Mr Robbins – whose body has not been found – is thought to have been tortured and killed after being taken to Mr Shaw’s home in Torrington Avenue, Tile Hill.
It is believed Whyley and Hobday, who have not been seen by family or friends, were associated with a criminal gang operating in the area.
The senior officer told reporters: “Ryan Hobday is wanted in connection with both murders and Ben Whyley is wanted in connection with the murder of Johnny Robbins.
“Interestingly, no one has seen them or heard from them – so we are told – since around about March time of this year.
“We are wanting to find them to speak to them in connection with the murders but we have got concerns for their safety because we have also received information that one or both of them may also be dead.”
Mr Mallett said officers, who have issued CCTV of a potential witness to Mr Shaw’s death, have received hundreds of information reports and intelligence logs from the local community, telling them what had happened and who was involved.
He added: “We know that the community hold the key to this inquiry.
“We have had lots of people anonymously tell us who is responsible and what has happened but nobody is prepared to come forward and give us that information in an evidential format.
“I know the reason for that – they are scared of this group who conduct their ‘business’ in the Tile Hill area.
“What I want to do is to say to the people in the community who do know, who are scared, we can help you give your evidence in such a way that you are your families are protected.
“There are a whole range of measures that we can give people.”
Relatives of Mr Shaw and Mr Robbins, who worked as a roofer and had three children aged between four and nine, issued statements at the news conference, paying tribute to their loved ones.
Mr Shaw’s sister, Blossom Shaw, said: “Dan was the kindest, most gentle person I have ever known.
“He’d rather go without than see anyone struggle. He was trustworthy and we think that made him vulnerable, as he always saw the best in people.”
Speaking on behalf of the Robbins family, his sister Vicky said: “Johnny was a kind, caring, fun-loving and beautiful person.
“He was a devoted daddy with three beautiful children who loved him to the moon and stars, and back.
“The impact that losing Johnny has had on our lives is unbearable. Nothing in this world can prepare you for having to explain to his children that daddy won’t be coming home – that he has been murdered.
“Nothing can prepare you for a traumatised nine-year-old asking why they had to kill his daddy. The only answer we can give is we don’t know but one day we will have answers.”