Residents of the Worcestershire village where an armed robbery took place today say the son of the postmaster was shot dead in the raid.
Neighbours said Craig Hodson-Walker suffered fatal chest injuries in the attack at a family-run business in Fairfield, near Bromsgrove.
His father Ken was shot in the leg as raiders armed with a handgun and a sledgehammer targeted Fairfield Post Office and General Stores.
Witnesses told police that three men wearing balaclavas raced away from the Stourbridge Road store in a silver VW Golf at about 8.20am. A car was seen loitering near the store, which is opposite a primary school, shortly before the robbery.
Police launched a massive manhunt for the men, bringing in specialist search teams, dog handlers and a helicopter.
Villager Eddie Bretherton, 76, said the postmaster's wife Judy ran to a neighbouring house after the shooting.
Retired engineer Mr Bretherton, who lives a few doors down, said: "They live over the shop. We understand Ken has been shot in the leg and Craig has died."
He said the family came from south Wales and Craig was engaged to be married.
"They are very nice people. We exchanged pleasantries in the ordinary way. We saw them in the pub when they were there for a meal. One of the reasons we moved here was the post office. We go in regularly."
Speaking at a press briefing at the Crown Inn pub in Catshill, near Fairfield, Detective Superintendent Jon Groves said the three offenders travelled to the scene in a silver VW Golf, with the registration W337 DDN.
He said the vehicle was bearing false plates, having been stolen from Solihull, West Midlands, on December 31. The correct registration for this vehicle is GP53 FJJ.
Appealing for witnesses, he said the car would have been caught up in rush-hour traffic on the Stourbridge Road island at the junction with the A491, Sandy Lane, which is several hundred metres from the store. The Golf was abandoned within minutes of the robbery in nearby Bourneheath Lane, Mr Groves said.
Officers discovered the silver VW Golf getaway car a short distance from the post office in Bournheath Road.
Residents in the small village, which is close to the M5 and M42 motorways, said they were shocked at news of the robbery.
Builder David Green, 59, said the Hodson-Walker family were originally from Wales and moved to the area several years ago.
Mr Green said Mr and Mrs Hodson-Walker were in their 50s, while Craig was in his 20s.
He said: "Everybody knows everybody here. They are a lovely family, just lovely people really. We always have a little chat."
Richard Lynton, 27, bar manager at the nearby Swan Inn, said there had been a robbery at the post office in the nearby village of Romsley in the last few months. He added: "We are near the (M5) motorway so it is a quick getaway."
Gordon Witcomb, who is chairman of the neighbouring parish council, said he was shocked but not surprised to hear of the robbery. He said a convenience store in nearby Lickey End was held up for cigarettes and cash by armed hoodies in November.
Fairfield First School headteacher Helen Hedar said several young pupils had already arrived at the time of the incident. But she said the school, which teaches children aged between four and nine, is set back from the road and does not overlook the shop.
Mrs Hedar said police officers have quizzed teachers and parents who were in the area. She said: "We have had to close the school for the day and all children are being sent home.
"Everyone is absolutely fine. We are all safe. We had a few children who had arrived in the school when it happened. Everyone else was turned away."
Mrs Hedar added: "I did not see anything. We are quite secluded so no-one appears to have seen or heard anything."
Yvonne Froud, 52, bought the Hodson-Walkers' previous shop, situated in the Forest of Dean in the village of Lydbrook, from the family five years ago. She said the family owned the shop for 17 years.
Ms Froud said: "They were a lovely family. My heart goes out to them. They were a hard-working couple and were well thought of in the village. They helped elderly people and were good village shop-owners really.
"People around here will be absolutely devastated because they are so well thought of. It will come as a dreadful shock to everybody."
Ms Froud said the couple have a second son, James, a married father who works as a plumber.
A Post Office spokesman said: "We are shocked and appalled at this terrible attack against hard-working people serving the whole community and we are very concerned for the family and will be doing all we can to help them."
West Midlands Ambulance Service said it sent six vehicles and an air ambulance to the scene shortly before 8.30am.
A spokeswoman said: "When crews arrived they found two men who had been injured.
"Ambulance staff immediately started treating one man who had suffered serious multiple injuries and tried to stabilise his condition.
"Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of ambulance crews and the emergency doctors, nothing could be done to save him and he was confirmed dead at the scene. The second man suffered a serious leg injury.
"Crews treated him at the scene before he was transferred by land ambulance to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham for further assessment and treatment."
The Rev Barbara Mapley, vicar of St Mark's Church in Fairfield, which is opposite the post office, said the family were very popular because they were so hardworking.
She said: "We are all absolutely shocked. They are such lovely people. It is a horrible, horrible thing to have happened. We will be praying for them, for certain."