SHOTGUN cartridge cases found in a dustbin near a murder scene could lead police to the killer of an IT student.

Operation Trident officers are appealing for information on the special custom-made shells, which were discovered near to where Norman Francis was gunned down last October.

The 29-year-old was leaving his girlfriend's home in Leda Way, Woolwich, when his killer struck, shooting him in the thigh and chest with a 12-bore shotgun.

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Many residents in Plantagenet House mistook the shots for fireworks and officers believe the shells represent a key discovery in the murder investigation.

Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Duncan Wilson said: "We have been told by the retailers the whole batch has been sold and are keen to speak to anyone who still has one of these full cartridges so we can compare it to those found at the scene.

"This could give us the vital lead we are looking for to solve this heartless killing."

Just 5,000 of the cartridges were manufactured by the Hull Cartridge Company in December 2000 for Ray Ward Gunsmiths in Knightsbridge.

The Trident team, which specialises in black-on-black drug-related gun crime, has confirmed Mr Francis, of West Norwood, was not involved in the illegal drugs trade.

Anyone with information should call the Trident incident room on 020 8785 8056, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.