THE parents of Richard Holmes, who was murdered in the street on Friday, have spoken to the Guardian about their loyal and caring son.

Richard, 21, from Chingford, was shot and killed in Greenham Crescent in the Chingford Hall estate as he defended a 16-year-old boy against some men, police said.

He was found dead in the early hours of the morning.

His parents, Gary and Lynn Holmes, paid tribute to their son who they said had a heart of gold. They told us his murder had left them feeling numb and empty.

Mrs Holmes said: "Everyone said he was very caring and generous. He had lots of friends and they all respected him. Richard was everyone's friend, was very loyal and had a wicked sense of humour.

"It is such a senseless and needless loss of life. His friends are totally gutted."

Richard's parents are urging anyone with information about the shooting to come forward and contact the police.

Mr and Mrs Holmes said: "Please come forward, even if you don't think the information is important, it may be."

Richard, who was born in Walthamstow but moved to Chingford when he was 11, was a pupil at Roger Ascham Primary School before going to Highams Park School.

His mum said: "He was no scholar but he loved PE and the social aspect of school. A couple of his old teachers have phoned with their sympathies and we have had a lot of support from friends and family."

His family said Richard was known to his friends as Ritchie Rich and spoke of his talent as a footballer.

Mr Holmes said: "He used to play for Ridgeway Rovers and he was then signed up to Norwich Football Club from the age of nine to 12 before coming back to the Rovers.

"He loved football and still played in his spare time. He was a Spurs fan and used to go to the matches."

Mr and Mrs Holmes visited the murder scene this week with police.

They said: "The family would like to thank everyone who has left tributes for Richard."

DCI Matthew Horne, who is leading the investigation, said: "We are appealing to anyone who knew Richard or knew his last movements leading up his murder to contact us.

"Our commitment will continue to find Richard's murderer or murderers and prevent further violence. We will pursue those responsible relentlessly until we bring the person or people responsible to justice."

Witnesses and anyone with information should call 8345 3775 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.