A FRIEND has paid tribute to an elderly man believed to have been murdered in Weymouth.

Police launched a murder investigation at the weekend after a 75 year old man died on Weymouth Esplanade.

Holidaymaker Gerald Wheeldon, 71, from Stratford-upon-Avon, told the Dorset Echo that the man who died was called John, and that they had been friends for around eight years, meeting up on Mr Wheeldon's regular visits to the town.

Mr Wheeldon had been staying a few doors down from John at Whitesands Apartments when the incident happened on September 7.

"Whenever I visit Weymouth I meet up for a cup of tea with John", he said.

"But not this time - instead I saw the police take him in away from his house in a body bag. I'm in shock, it's just awful", he said.

"He was a lovely, friendly man - we first got talking about eight years ago when I was sitting in the park with my dogs.

"This is my third visit to Weymouth this year, I can't believe I won't be seeing him again. I just can't believe it."

The death was initially treated as unexplained and enquiries into the circumstances surrounding the death have been carried out by detectives from the Major Crime Investigation Team (MCIT).

A post-mortem examination took place on the afternoon of Thursday. Further neurology and toxicology tests have been requested before a cause of death can be given, but the pathologist stated that the victim suffered injuries that are believed to be consistent with an assault.

A 28-year-old woman of no fixed abode, who was known to the victim, was arrested on suspicion of murder.

Subsequently, a 38-year old Weymouth man was arrested on suspicion of murder and a 37-year-old man, also from Weymouth, was arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender.

All three are assisting detectives with their enquiries.

Detective Chief Inspector Rich Dixey, of MCIT, said: “Following the conclusion of the post-mortem examination and as a result of further extensive enquiries, we have launched a murder investigation.

“We have kept the victim's family updated with these developments and they continue to be supported by specially trained officers. Our thoughts remain with them at this difficult time.

“We are conducting enquiries to establish the full circumstances surrounding the death and I would appeal to anyone with information that may assist our investigation to contact us.

“I am keen to hear from anyone who may have witnessed or heard anything suspicious in the area of The Esplanade, to the rear of Alexandra Gardens, on the morning of Saturday, September 7.

“There will be a scene in place as we continue to investigate this incident and officers from the local neighbourhood policing team can be approached by members of the community with any concerns.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Dorset Police at www.dorset.police.uk, via email 101@dorset.pnn.police.uk or by calling 101, quoting occurrence number 55190141132. Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via www.crimestoppers-uk.org.