M40 reopens following 'fingertip' search for clues in Hell's Angel shooting
13th August 2007
The M40 has reopened after police concluded their fingertip search of the carriageway following the murder of a motorcyclist on Sunday afternoon.
The road had been completely closed between junctions 12 and 13 for more than 24 hours, stranding hundreds of motorists, while around 50 specially-trained officers carried out the search.
A post-mortem examination has revealed the biker died from a single gunshot wound to the head.
The M40 was closed for more than 24 hours while police made a fingertip search of the road
The man, who has not been named, was shot in broad daylight as he rode home from the Bulldog Bash motorcycle festival near Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire at about 2.15pm on Sunday.
Warwickshire Police said they believed the fatal shot had been fired from a handgun.
The Bulldog Bash, Europe's biggest biker party
The victim, thought to be in his 30s and from the south of England, is believed to be a motorbike shop worker from South London and a Hell's Angel.
He was shot on the southbound carriageway near Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, about 20 miles from the festival at the Long Marston airfield.
The detective leading the manhunt said a possible feud between biker gangs was one line of inquiry.
Detective Superintendent Ken Lawrence said the festival had passed off without reports of incidents that might provoke at attack.
But he admitted that the killers may have used the festival as a means of tracking down their victim.
Around 50 officers were involved in the fingertip search of the carriageway
"We are not aware of any incidents at the Bulldog Bash event which could be directly linked to the death," he said.
"But the event gathers huge numbers of people from across Europe, and if someone was seeking revenge, the event would be a good place to find someone."
Detectives want to speak to the driver and occupants of a green Rover 620, which was seen travelling south on the M40 close to a group of motorcyclists at about the time of the incident.
They have not yet released details of the biker or the make and model of his motorcycle, although he is believed to have been riding a low-slung style motorbike, of the style seen in the cult film Easy Rider.
Detectives are also scouring CCTV footage from cameras monitoring the stretch of motorway in Warwickshire, to see if the shooting or the moments leading up to it were caught on camera.
Detective Superintendent Ken Lawrence of Warwickshire Police said: "It is our one and only chance to really examine the scene."
The motorway was closed north and south between junctions 12 and 13
Detectives have ruled out a road rage attack and are treating it as murder.
A Warwickshire Police spokesman said: "The man was riding in a group with at least two other motorbikes.
"We are appealing for anybody who witnessed what happened to come forward."
He said there had been no reported incidents at the Bulldog Bash, but officers would be investigating any rows between rival biker gangs which may have continued outside the festival site.
Festival chief organiser, a Hell's Angel who goes by the name Bilbo, confirmed the biker was a Hell's Angel.
He said: "I knew the lad and you couldn't wish to meet a better person.
"We're are used to deaths as bikers - people die in accidents - but we don't expect someone to get shot.
"This is murder, plain and simple, and we have no idea why."
The victim is not British but is believed to have lived in the UK for some time.
He was travelling with two Polish friends when he was gunned down.
Air Ambulance crews treated him at the scene of the shooting but were unable to save him.
Burly bikers show off their machines at the festival
Detectives said they were examining a similar shooting six years ago, in which three bikers, from France and Canada, were on the M40 after the Bulldog Bash, when they were shot at from a car travelling in the middle lane.
"There are similarities but it does not mean they were linked," said Mr Lawrence.
Police at the time described it as an "indiscriminate attack".
The Bulldog-Bash, which was celebrating its 21st anniversary, is one of the biggest events of its kind in the world, but has previously been largely trouble-free.
It attracts tens of thousands of motorcyclists and music fans from across Europe.
Warwickshire Police are involved in traffic management for the event, but officers do not patrol the site and Hell's Angels are responsible for security.
The Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club was founded in the US in the 1940s and there are now chapters in more than 30 countries.
The National Criminal Intelligence Service has warned that some Hell's Angels are involved in drug dealing.
The Bulldog Bash, in Warwickshire, attracts thousands of bikers. It is the biggest biker pary in Europe.
Biker event 'Europe's biggest'
The event attracts thousands of bikers each year
The shooting of a motorcyclist on the M40, which is being treated as murder, happened 20 miles from the site of the Bulldog Bash, a festival for bikers.
It is billed as Europe's number one biker party, and has grown from a tiny gathering 20 years ago to an event which attracts about 30,000 visitors.
The festival, which is held at Long Marston airfield near Stratford-on-Avon in Warwickshire, was expected to break attendance records in 2007.
One of the highlights of the event is the "Run-What-You-Brung".
This is an open form of DIY drag racing, where bikers pit their skills against each other and ride as fast as they dare over a quarter mile drag-strip.
Spectators can watch as top stunt professionals amaze onlookers with formation wheelies.
The Bulldog Bash also attracts a variety of customised cars, bikes and stunt riders.
Some of the best bike builders in Europe display their machinery, with prizes on offer in several categories.
There is also musical entertainment at the four-day event, with a dance tent and live bands.
The headline act over the weekend was the veteran rock group Status Quo.
Other attractions include a fairground and a topless bike wash. On an internet forum on the festival's website, many people who attended said what an enjoyable event it had been, and expressed their shock at Sunday's shooting.