TWO men were being questioned at Darlington police station yesterday about the suspected murder of Mr Paul Simpson.

The 34-year-old mature student died 24 hours after being discovered with a fractured skull just yards from the home he shared with his partner, Tricia Kelly, in Askrigg Street.

He had left a friend's house in Leyburn Road on Sunday, March 11, at 2.10am to walk the 400 yards to his home. A beat officer found him dying ten minutes later.

It is thought the fracture was caused by a heavy fall, but he also had marks on his face suggesting he had been punched.

The two men being questioned are aged 19 and 23, and police have revealed that a dark green Isuzu pick-up could be central to the investigation.

It is thought to have stopped near a telephone box in Askrigg Street about the time Mr Simpson was injured.

Mr Simpson's brother, Geoff, a college lecturer, said he did not believe his brother's attacker had meant to kill him.

Det Supt Harry Stephenson who is leading the inquiry said: "Mr Simpson was a committed and well-respected family man who had the world at his feet. Though he had been drinking, he was in no way drunk.

"We do not think he was knocked over by a car. We want to know what caused the abrasion to his face. It was possible he was punched, but this was not a fight. He had no defensive injuries."

He said North Road would have been busy with taxi drivers and clubbers who might be able to help.

Mr Simpson had two daughters, Lauren, aged ten, and Ashleigh, aged five.

Anyone with information about the incident should ring Darlington police on 01325 467681.