– Linzi Ashton was ‘brutally assaulted’ at her home in Winton, Salford
– Detectives are searching for her ex-boyfriend Michael Cope
– Police confirmed she had injuries to her face and head
– Neighbours said police had been called previously over domestic abuse
Greater Manchester Police referred itself to Independent Police Complaints Commission because of the force’s previous involvement with the couple.
Detectives investigating the ‘brutal’ murder of a mother-of-two, who was found dead in her home last night, are hunting her ex-boyfriend.
The body of Linzi Ashton, 25, was discovered at her house in Winton, Salford, by relatives shortly before 6pm yesterday.
Today, Greater Manchester Police announced they want to speak to Michael Cope, who they believe is responsible for her death.
Cope, 28, had been in an ‘acrimonious’ relationship with the barmaid and their turbulent love life had been the subject of previous police contact.
Police confirmed Ms Ashton had visible injuries to her head and face.
It is thought she was last seen alive by a friend in the Eccles area shortly before 2am yesterday.
Detective Chief Superintendent Darren Shenton said the mother-of-two was ‘brutally assaulted’.
He said: ‘It is an early stage of the investigation and I am not going to speculate as to the cause of Linzi’s death. However, I am satisfied that she has been brutally assaulted.
‘This is a fast-moving investigation and I have declared a suspect who I believe responsible for Linzi’s death, a former partner of hers, a local Salford man by the name of Michael Cope.
‘Michael Cope and Linzi had been in a relationship. That relationship has been acrimonious and indeed the subject of reports to the police.
‘A young woman has been brutally murdered. I believe the person responsible is this local man Michael Cope and I need the public’s support to locate and actually provide information which will allow the police to arrest Cope.’
He said a ‘dim view’ would be taken by anyone found to be harbouring Cope.
Neighbours today described their shock at Linzi’s death, with some claiming police had been called to her home previously over domestic abuse incidents.
Greater Manchester Police has referred its previous involvement with the couple to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
One, who didn’t wish to be named, said: ‘It’s just unbelievable really but it seems to be happening all the time.
‘I only knew Linzi from speaking to her in passing and she’s not lived here very long. One of her girls, who was about three, went to the same school as my nephew. I feel so sorry for them and her family.’
Another neighbour added: ‘She was a really nice girl who looked after her kids. She always had a smile on her face and said hello to everyone. It’s a real tragedy.’
Police have today cordoned off part of Westbourne Road as forensic crime scene investigators examine the property.
A number of floral tributes have been left at the cordon.
Three women laid flowers but were too upset to comment, with one of them in tears.
Several more floral tributes and cards were left at the Duke of York pub in Eccles town centre where Ms Ashton worked.
One read: ‘Our Lovely Princess Linzi. Fallen too soon. Forever in our hearts and memories.’
A post-mortem examination has yet to take place, Greater Manchester Police said.
It’s understood Linzi had split from the father of her two young children Daisy and Destiny and started a relationship with another man.
But she had kept in contact with her ex and some neighbours claimed he had been the person to find Linzi’s body before alerting police.
Tributes were paid to Linzi on Twitter. Rhiannon Hopkins tweeted: ‘Rip linzi Ashton, thoughts are with family friends and the two angels she got taken from.’
Jacob Danson wrote: ‘Rip linzi ashton god bless you your daughters and family so heartbreaking x.’
Lee Kaye RIP wrote: ‘Linzi Ashton. Such awful tragic news! Thoughts and Prayers to all her family and friends! Xxx.’
Zoe Kenzitt wrote: ‘R.I.P linzi ashton..so sad especially so close to home! Thoughts are with your 2 girls daisy&destiny #horribleworld #rip.’
Mr Shenton said Cope was still likely to be in Salford and that his family knew they were looking for him.
He said: ‘Because he is a murder suspect we would advise the public not to approach him and report any sightings to us.
‘We are also keen to hear from anyone who saw or spoke to either Linzi or Michael throughout Saturday.
‘There will continue to be an increased police presence in the area over the coming hours and days, not only to offer reassurance, but to act as a point of contact if you want to discuss anything with us or have any information that may assist this inquiry.’
Anyone with information should call police on 101, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.