POLICE want to question two men after a Bury father-of-four was kicked to death as he walked home from his birthday celebration.

Detectives hope readers will recognise the pair from CCTV pictures taken near to the scene where 39-year-old Rob Johnston was kicked "like a bunch of rags" early on Saturday morning.

Mr Johnston worked for Briggs Demolition in Wellington Street, Bury, for 20 years.

The man leading the investigation, Det Supt Martin Bottomley, said the pair were either the attackers or crucial witnesses who police wanted to speak to urgently.

He made the plea as Mr Johnston's devastated wife, Sharron, begged the attackers or any witnesses to come forward.

"I can't start to grieve until I know they have been caught," she said as she choked back tears.

Mr Johnston was walking back to his house on Levens Drive, Breightmet, with a friend after the pair had enjoyed a night out.

They were walking along Saville Street, close to the junction with Shiffnall Street, in Bolton town centre, at 2.40am when they were involved in an argument with two other men.

Mr Johnston was punched, kicked and stamped on as he lay prone on the pavement.

He suffered horrific head injuries and died in Royal Bolton Hospital seven hours later.

Mr Johnston's friend 38-year-old Darren O'Donaghue suffered bruising to the face and head.

Witnesses have reported seeing Mr Johnston being kicked like a "bunch of rags" and only realised it was a man when they got closer.

The two attackers are said to have calmly walked off, leaving Mr Johnston for dead.

The CCTV images show two men making their way up Shiffnall Street in the direction of Bradshawgate, before turning right on to Salop Street and towards Breightmet Street.

Det Supt Bottomley said he hoped the distinctive clothing being worn by the two would help identify them.

"The images show two men wearing very distinctive clothing," he said.

"One was wearing a hooped top and the other is wearing a top with very distinctive writing.

"The significance of these two is that they walked towards the scene where Rob was attacked.

"Three minutes later, they walked away from the scene.

"If they are not involved, they are significant witnesses and we need to speak to them immediately."

Only one of the men is thought to have been responsible for inflicting the fatal injuries and Det Supt Bottomley urged the other man to come forward to clear his conscience.

He added: "If you cast your mind back to what you husband, brother, boyfriend or son was wearing last weekend you will recognise this man."

Speaking from the couple's home on Levens Drive, Breightmet, Mrs Johnston, aged 44, said: "Please just come forward and tell them anything.

"He had a family and children and he didn't deserve that.

"Both of these men need to speak to the police and tell them exactly what happened.

"Anyone with information, it doesn't matter how small it is, needs to tell the police what they know."

The couple, who had been married for 12 years, moved to Breightmet from Bury in February of this year.

Mr Johnston had four children, including three step-children: Susan, aged 23; Michael, aged 20; Sarah, aged 17; and Samantha, aged 14.

He was a grandfather to Leonni, aged two and 11-week-old Morgan.

Mrs Johnston said: "He was a good man who didn't have a violent bone in his body. He was always ready to help a stranger in the street. Rob was a peaceful man, not a trouble maker.

"He shouldn't have died like that."

"Everybody has been devastated at his work. They haven't been in because they've all been too upset."

Mr O'Donaghue, of Holme Avenue, Bury, has been left traumatised.

Mrs Johnston said: "He absolutely devastated.

"He can't come to terms with this himself.

"He's known Rob for 30 years. They were best mates and he can't understand what happened or why."

Anyone with information is asked to contact the incident room on 0161 856 5965 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.