A suspected armed robber stabbed to death during a bungled raid was cleared of murder nine years ago, police sources have confirmed.
It is understood that Gary Mullings, 30, was part of an armed gang which tried to rob a florists in Manchester. He suffered fatal stab wounds during the incident. Shopkeeper Cecil Coley, 72, has been arrested on suspicion of murder.
The Manchester Evening News said that Mr Mullings was acquitted in January 2002 of the murder of Alan Byron, 18, who was shot dead in a car in Longsight a year earlier. Another man was convicted and jailed for life.
Police were called to the florist in Shrewsbury Street, Old Trafford, on Tuesday evening after reports that a man had been injured. Officers said a number of men had attempted to rob the shop and that a gun had been found at the scene.
Mr Mullings, of New Moston, was taken to hospital with a stab wound but died a short time later. Mr Coley was also injured in the incident and was in hospital overnight. Police said they expect to speak to him.
A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said a 19-year-old man who presented himself at Manchester Royal Infirmary with stab wounds on Tuesday had been arrested on suspicion of robbery.
Mr Coley's nephew, Glen Simms, 49, said his uncle had had the shop premises for 40 years. Mr Simms said: "I heard that two men went in to rob the shop and that my uncle was there with a friend. It appears they were attacked and my uncle acted to defend himself."
Family members issued tributes to Mr Mullings via the police. In a statement, his girlfriend and mother of his children said: "Gary was a loyal and loving man to me and our children. He had a heart of gold for children. My soulmate has been taken away from me in the physical, but he will live in my heart and soul forever and ever."
His father said: "My son, also my best friend, will be greatly missed by his mum, dad and family. No matter what I asked of him he was always there, through the good and the bad times he was always by my side. He lived for his children, which he love and adored. He will be clearly missed and will never be forgotten."
His brother said: "My brother was a talented and gifted rapper, one of the most real and down-to-earth people you could ever meet. He was a loving and caring brother and father, a very family orientated man. It was a pleasure and privilege to be your brother. Love you more than life itself."