Salford ex-con Paul Massey, who was shot dead by a suspected professional hitman in his own drive, might have been targeted because he was trying to mediate between rival gangs.

Security consultant Massey, 55, known as "Mr Big", despite being five feet tall, was shot four times at close range on Sunday evening (26 July) as he got out of his silver BMW outside his home in the Clifton area of the city. He was able to dial 999 and say he'd been shot, but died soon afterwards.

Speaking to The Guardian, a friend said he believed Massey had been mediating between two rival Salford gangs and that "he may have come unstuck." The contact, who did not wish to be identified, also said he believed "associates" of Massey may know who ordered the "hit".

Greater Manchester Police say if Massey was mediating, it wasn't on their behalf. They have issued a detailed description of the suspect. He is described as white, slim, wearing a hat and face covering, with combat-style trousers tucked into black laced boots.

Police are also appealing for a potential witness to come forward. Det Chief Insp Howard Millington, said: "We are keen to speak to a girl who we believe is a potential witness to the shooting. She was stood at the bus stop on Manchester Road at the time of the shooting.

"She is described as about 16-17-years-old, Asian in appearance and of slim build. I would ask that she comes forward as she may have key information that can help our investigation."

In a statement the police added: " Police also want to speak to the owner of a silver or grey Volvo that turned left out of Church Walk away from the incident shortly afterwards."

Father-of-five and grandfather Massey, who stood unsuccessfully to be Mayor of Salford in 2012, denied being involved in organised crime, despite once serving 14 years in prison for stabbing a man in the groin.

There have been 14 other shootings in Manchester recently, but police say there is nothing to suggest Massey is linked to them.

Now there are fears there could be reprisals for Massey's killing and that Manchester may be returning to the dark days of the 1990s and 2000s when there were so many shootings the city acquired the nickname "Gunchester."