Suspected murder enquiry launched

West Mercia Police is asking for the public's help to trace missing man Jesse Richards who has not been seen or heard from since last summer.

Detectives believe Jesse was abducted in the Cleeve Prior area of South Worcestershire and taken by vehicle to another location in Warwickshire.

Police are offering a £10,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of Jesse. Officers strongly suspect he is no longer alive and this is being conducted as a suspected murder investigation.

At the time of the incident Jesse was a 41 year old family man with a wife and three children who lived in Surrey.

Acting Detective Chief Inspector Mark Loader explained:

"Jesse went missing on 31 July 2009. He had been to Sheffield that morning on business; he is a scrap dealer by trade. He travelled to Cleeve Prior near Evesham that afternoon. We understand Jesse was assaulted by a group of men at Cleeve Prior who were armed with various weapons. We believe this group of men injured Jesse and then bundled him into a white Renault van reg number RE56 GEJ."

"This was a cowardly attack on a passive, unarmed man by several offenders. We are keeping an open mind about the motive for the attack but we believe that Jesse may have owed some money. How the van would have looked prior to the fire. The burnt out remains of the van"We believe the van containing Jesse was then driven to Warwickshire and the vehicle was found burnt out in a rural part of Bedworth the following day - 1 August 2009."

If anyone thinks they saw the van on the relevant days then please get in touch with West Mercia Police on 0300 333 3000 or Crimestoppers 0800 555111.

More than 100 police officers and staff have been working on this investigation and West Mercia officers have been collaborating with other forces including Warwickshire Police to search for Jesse. Various searches have been carried out at sites across Warwickshire in the last few months and local people may have noticed some police activity.

A/DCI Loader added: "This type of crime is rare in West Mercia and we need to know what happened to Jesse and where he is now. I am appealing to anyone, regardless of their criminal background, who may have information about his whereabouts and I would like to remind you of the £10,000 reward on offer. We would like to reassure the communities of both West Mercia and Warwickshire that we have been working hard to find Jesse and get to the bottom of what has happened on 31 July 2009 and beyond."

Nine men have been arrested in connection with this investigation and remain on police bail.