FRIGHTENED Wiganers have spoken of their shock and distress after a man was gunned down in broad daylight at their local car wash.
The victim, who was blasted three times with a handgun fired by a thug in a balaclava mask, is now said to be in a serious condition in hospital after the attack at the business in Bolton Road, Ashton, on Monday teatime. At least one wound was to his stomach.
It is an absolute shock and horror. This is totally alien to a place like AshtonSir Ian McCartney
It is the first time there has been a major firearms incident in Ashton since gangster Billy Webb was assassinated in his flat by masked gunmen in May 2001.
And local residents and public figures have spoken of their shock at a form of violence usually associated with inner cities coming to their town.
Bill Robinson of Sibley Avenue, which backs onto the car wash, said: “At 5.10pm I heard what I thought were four shots and automatically looked at the clock to check the time.
“I went to look out of the back bedroom window. I saw someone come out of the garage and get in a car and drive off.
“Then another person got into another car and drove off as well. What surprised me, if he was involved, is they didn’t drive off like a bat out of hell because there was traffic on the road he just got let out and drove off.
“It was only a while after that the road was shut.”
An unnamed resident on Thompson Street, which also backs onto the car wash, added: “I was cooking tea when I heard five or six bangs but I thought they were fireworks. The first I knew of anything serious was at about 5.10pm when police shut off the road. It’s quite a shock.
“We’ve got to know them and they are nice people and they give us a free car wash because we are neighbours.”
Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue said: “It is deeply disturbing to learn of this cowardly attack in a busy route through Ashton. The actions of the perpetrator could have resulted in more people being injured so it is imperative that the local community pull together.”
And her predecessor as local MP Sir Ian McCartney, who lives nearby, said: “I actually use the car wash where it happened and I got caught up in the traffic as the road was blocked off.
“We had to turn back and go round the back of the houses to get home. We thought it was a car accident but later on in the evening, someone had e-mailed me to say someone had been shot.
“It is an absolute shock and horror. This is totally alien to a place like Ashton.
“I heard the man is in a serious condition.”
Michael Moulding, chairman of the Ashton Residents’ Association, said: “I have received messages from a lot of residents on our group’s Facebook page and they are all expressing concern with what has happened.
“A lot have been saying that this is not the first major incident to have happened at this particular car wash.
“We all want to express our sympathy for the victim but underneath that there is a lot of worry. This happened in the early evening, not in the middle of the night, a resident or even a child could have been caught up in this.”
Bryn councillor Ann Rampling said: “It is only up the road from me. I don’t know the details but I am grateful that nobody else was hurt.
“This is not the norm for Ashton as it is such a lovely place to live.
“I didn’t hear anything but I noticed the traffic building up in Bolton Road and police turning people away and making them turn around at Tesco garage.
“My husband went to have a look but the police would not let him through.”
Part of Bolton Road was shut as a search was launched for the assailant and so it remained for the most part of Tuesday, causing considerable traffic disruption.
A man is being held in custody on suspicion of attempted murder.