TWO Wigan shopkeepers have told of their shock at coming face to face with a fugitive murder suspect.
Detectives swooped on the unnamed convenience store in Hindley after Michael Cope was seen withdrawing money and buying food on Sunday.
Cope is being hunted over the murder of 25-year-old mum-of-two Linzi Ashton in Winton, Manchester, last month. A £25,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the mum-of-two’s killer .
The shop staff, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Evening Post today that they had no idea who he was at the time although he did behave suspiciously.
Cope acted like he was trying to hide his face when drawing out money from the Atherton Road store’s cash machine.
One said: “We didn’t recognise him, he certainly had not been in our shop before. He just bought some snacks and drew out some money.
“The only thing I noticed was that when he was at the cash machine, he kept his head down. He had a cap on and he had it lowered over his face. There is a camera directly above the machine.
“He bought his food - a sandwich, snacks and a drink - and asked me to check the change he was given. I had to count it out again, then he left.”
Murder police descended on the store the following day to inform the shocked staff whom it was that they had served.
Officers have warned residents to remain vigilant but not to attempt to approach Cope as he may be armed.
Det Chief Supt Darren Shenton said: “I would now urge the people of Hindley and Wigan to help our investigation if they can; if you have seen the man pictured, please call us.
“We understand these developments may alarm people in Wigan, but I would like to reassure them that we have a dedicated team of detectives, and specialist search officers, whose sole objective is to find Cope safely.
“Our appeal to the public is to be vigilant, and to let us know if they have seen the man pictured.
“Patrols by local officers are being stepped up, and members of the public can raise any concerns with them.”
“We believe Cope is familiar with the canal pathways between Salford and Leigh and may have spent time near the canal and waterways in Hindley.
“However, we would like to remind people that if Cope is seen he is not to be approached, as we do believe that he is dangerous and could be armed.
“Anyone who sees him should call the police immediately.
“He may have been sleeping rough and we would urge people to report any suspicious behaviour around outbuildings, sheds or gardens, as well as disused railway lines and open land.”
Cope’s ex-partner Linzi Ashton was found at her home on June 29 by relatives.
A post-mortem examination concluded she had died as a result of pressure to the neck and multiple injuries.
GMP and Crimestoppers are offering a reward of £25,000 for anyone with information that leads to the arrest and conviction of Cope.
Anyone with any information is asked to call police on 0161 856 5092 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.