The dad of a man murdered in a suspected race hate attack made an emotional appeal for help in catching the killers today.

Lee Phipps, 31, was a "shy, reserved" man who stood up for his mixed race mum against Nazi thugs.

Lee was beaten up three years ago after protecting Margaret Yusuf-Porter, 53, who is of Somalian descent.

She reported more than 300 racist incidents to police last year and 25 so far this year - yet she claims no one has been charged with any racist offence.

Detectives investigating his murder suspect the yobs who daubed swastikas and racist graffiti on his mother's house in South Shileds, South Tyneside, may be behind his murder.

Lee, a keen photographer, was taking pictures on the snow-covered Cleadon hills when he was stabbed to death last Thursday.

Yesterday his father Des Phipps, 53, who is separated from Margaret, struggled to hold back his tears as he spoke about the death of his son.

Mr Phipps, a security guard who has one other son, said: ""We believe the police will take a dangerous, cowardly, knife-carrying killer off the streets of this town.

"They will look under every stone and I believe that is where they will find him.

"We saw the body of our son, our brother, our uncle on a trolley in a mortuary, it is tragic, no other family should ever have to go through that.

"I want to say directly to the man who did this "you took away our boy and left a space we can never fill. If you had a single ounce of decency you would give yourself up now."

Fighting back tears Mr Phipps added: "Lee was a family man first and foremost, he loved his family and we loved him.

"He had sisters brothers, parents many neices and nephews and aunts and uncles all over the country.

"We never saw Lee as anything other than a shy, reserved, harmless, man.

"Lee loved photography, I don't come from or live in South Shields but I know what it is like here as I have many pictures from Lee.

"He loved walking, nature, bike rides in the countryside and a pint at wherever he ended up.

"He was a diehard Newcastle supporter but would go to Blackburn Rovers games with me and his brother too.

"My son Lee is dead at 31 and I want to know why and his family wants to know why.

"For what reason did this happen to him? He couldn't hurt anyone, it wasn't in his nature.

"I am speaking for Lee and all his family and friends. No one had the right to take him from us, we want him back but he won't come back because someone stabbed him several times.

"Lee had a big heart and someone stabbed him in it.

"I am appealing to the people who live here in South Shields, good northern people who don't want murderers living among them. The person who did this awful thing to Lee will have family, friends, people around him, people who will notice his behaviour has changed.

"He will be acting differently, perhaps washing clothes when he wouldn't normally. This could be your son or your brother, you have to tell the police he is capable of anything.

"You couldn't live with yourself if you ignored the signs and he did this to come other poor family."

Det Supt Steve Wade, leading the investigation confirmed that scientists will be re-examining Lee's body.

A reconstruction of the events of last Thursday will be carried out and a poster campaign is also under way.

Det Supt Wade said: "It would be remiss of me not to look at the racist angle.

Focussing on some of thoseprevious incidents is important but we will continue to keep an open mind on who is responsible for this.

"Lee had defensive injuries to him over and above the stab injuries, I think he has attempted to defend himself from the knife man but let's not forget it could be more than one person who is repsonsible.

"We need whoever is shielding the killer to come forward. "