A man found lying next to a crashed car with a fatal gunshot wound in Salt Ash on Sunday has been formally identified as 45-year-old Tanilba Bay resident David King.
Police investigating the apparent murder believe the suspected gunman was in the car with Mr King in the lead-up to the shooting and fled in another vehicle with the same make and model as a SUV later found burnt out in Heatherbrae.
Emergency crews were called to Hideaway Drive, not far from Salt Ash Public School, about 1.45pm on August 29 on reports that a white Ford Ranger ute had crashed into a letterbox in the front yard of a residence.
When police arrived, they found Mr King's body lying "just outside his vehicle".
Port Stephens-Hunter Police District commander Superintendent Chad Gillies said Mr King was found with a gunshot wound but did not confirm whether it was to the head as initial reports indicated.
"Early investigations indicate that a male with a firearm left the [ute]. A white Santa Fe was seen to collect that person and drive from that location. A short time later a white Santa Fe was located burnt out in Masonite Road, Heatherbrae," Superintendent Gillies said.
"We're currently trying to ascertain whether it was the same vehicle and linked to the incident in Hideaway Drive.
"The early indications are that the [gunman] was in the car with Mr King. We can't confirm definitively how many people were in the car at the time of the collision. That is one of the things our investigators are looking at."
The Santa Fe was found burnt out in an empty lot along Masonite Road, next to SRO Group. The car fire was extinguished by Fire and Rescue NSW firefighters.
Superintendent Gillies said investigators were conducting line searches at both the Salt Ash and Heatherbrae scenes on Monday.
The weapon allegedly used to kill Mr King had not been accounted for on Monday.
A post-mortem on Mr King's body is expected to be conducted this week.
Superintendent Gillies said Mr King was previously known to police, but while detectives were following several "strong lines of inquiry", he said it was too early to speculate on a motive for the shooting.
State Crime Command Homicide Squad investigators and Port Stephens-Hunter Police District detectives have formed Strike Force Breve to investigate the killing.
"Investigators are working around the clock to try to identify those responsible for the incident," Superintendent Gillies said.
Police have done an extensive canvass of CCTV from the areas around both scenes and are appealing appealing for anyone who may have seen a white Ford Ranger utility or a white Hyundai Santa Fe in the Salt Ash, Raymond Terrace and Heatherbrae areas between 8am and 3pm on Sunday or who may have dashcam footage to contact Raymond Terrace Police Station on (02) 4983 7599 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
"We've been inundated so far with information from members of the public, which I would encourage people to continue to do," Superintendent Gillies said.
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