Belgian prosecutors study murder of Exxon executive

BRUSSELS Fri Oct 26, 2012 8:36am EDT

The Exxon corporate logo is pictured at a gas station in Arlington, Virginia January 31, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

The Exxon corporate logo is pictured at a gas station in Arlington, Virginia January 31, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian prosecutors are investigating the murder of a British oil executive who was shot and killed in unexplained circumstances in front of his wife as they walked to their car after dinner at an Italian restaurant in Brussels.

Nicholas Mockford, who worked for U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil, was shot on October 14 after an evening meal, but prosecutors declined to say if they were investigating the case as a possible contract killing.

A woman who lived opposite where the couple had parked their car told Reuters she had heard three shots and then called the police. When she went out to investigate, she recognized Mockford's wife as a customer of her husband's hairdresser.

"She was clearly shocked and she said that they had demanded money, money, car, car. Those were the words she heard. One would imagine it was a car-jacking," she said.

Police initially suspected Mockford had been killed in a failed car hijacking, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters, though the couple's Lexus sports utility vehicle had not been taken after the shooting.

Marcello Minacapelli, the owner of the Italian restaurant, said the couple, who were not regulars, had left at about 10 p.m. on the Sunday evening, but he had not seen the incident.

Brussels prosecutors said they were not prepared to comment further on the details or circumstances of the case until the perpetrators were caught.

Mockford, 59, was a manager within the chemicals arm of ExxonMobil and had worked over a period of 38 years in Britain, Belgium and Singapore.

ExxonMobil Belgium confirmed he had worked as a department head at its office in Machelen, on the outskirts of Brussels.

"Of course we are all shocked," a company spokesman said. "There is no indication that the incident was work-related."

No one was willing to comment when Reuters called Mockford's family home in Grimbergen, an affluent town just north of the capital Brussels.

Britain's Foreign Office confirmed that a British national had been killed and that it was providing consular assistance.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Rex Merrifield and Giles Elgood)

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Comments (3)
matthewslyman wrote:
> “Reuters called Mockford’s family home”…!
— Tabloid journalism at its best. I can imagine that conversation…

“Your husband has just been shot dead in cold blood in front of you, after a quiet night out. We’d like to publish a story about this. Did anyone have any grudges against him? Or did he have any outstanding disputes with well-connected persons?”

> “No one was willing to comment”
— No wonder! Either they were too upset, or too sensible to comment to the media about an ongoing police investigation…

Oct 26, 2012 6:23am EDT  --  Report as abuse
chizzlinsam wrote:
“Since he was an oil exec…they gave us some money and we just forgot to mention it for a week or two…We will have a more complete description after the first of the month.”

Oct 26, 2012 7:31am EDT  --  Report as abuse
americanguy wrote:
With at least 4 billion people with a motive, or angry enough to kill an Exxon executive, this is going to be a tough case to solve.
Takes a long time to interview 4 billion “persons of interest”.

Oct 26, 2012 9:43am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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