Murder squad detectives were last night quizzing two men in connection with the death of a Bradford pensioner.

A 23-year-old and a 19-year-old have been arrested in connection with the death of Alan Sheard, 67, who died in hospital following an altercation.

The arrests followed a press conference at the scene yesterday morning in which police urged a group of youths, who were involved in an argument with the pensioner moments before he was fatally assaulted, to come forward.

Witnesses said Mr Sheard fell off the kerb after being assaulted and hit his head on the ground. He died in Leeds General Infirmary the day after the assault, which happened in Leeds Road, Thornbury, Bradford, on the corner of Thornbury Avenue, shortly before 7pm on Sunday.

Mr Sheard, of St Hilda's Terrace, Thornbury, had been walking in Leeds Road after drinking in local pubs, when he became involved in the altercation with four Asian males. The youngest was aged about 14 and the others were in their late teens to early 20s. One had a full beard.

Detective Superintendent Dave Oldroyd, of West Yorkshire Police's Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, who is leading the investigation, stressed it was not a sustained gang attack. "During the course of this argument one of the youths assaulted Mr Sheard, resulting in him tragically dying," said Det Supt Oldroyd.

"The youths then ran off up Thornbury Avenue. The altercation and the assault happened in a short space of time."

Det Supt Oldroyd said police did not know what the argument was about and it was too early to comment on whether there was a racial element.

He said Mr Sheard was a single man who frequented the local pubs and clubs and was well known in the area.

Ward Councillor Riaz Ahmed (Lib-Dem, Bradford Moor), said a witness had told him Mr Sheard had been shouting racial abuse at the youths.

Coun Ahmed was serving in his son's food shop, yards from the scene, when the assault took place and went to help the victim. He said: "I took my jacket off and put it on top of the elderly gentleman.

"He was unconscious and there was bleeding from his head. He was making no sound.

"There were three or four people who went to his aid. According to one of them at the scene the elderly gentleman was walking across the road and the youths were walking along the pavement.

"The witness said he was shouting racial abuse at the teenagers, who asked him what they had done wrong. Then, something happened and the man fell into the road."

Coun Ahmed said Mr Sheard used to go into his son's shop and was shy and quiet. He said he understood he has a mother living in a nursing home and a daughter.

Coun Ahmed's son Zafar Riaz, 30, who manages The Orange Tree store on Leeds Road, saw the attack. He said: "A punch was thrown and straight away you could tell he was knocked out because he had been drinking.

"It was like when you are chopping a tree down, he just went straight backwards."

Det Supt Oldroyd appealed for anyone who witnessed the incident, or had information, to contact the murder incident room on (01274) 373700, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.