CAR thieves who died in an horrific crash had minutes earlier threatened to shoot someone in Farnworth.

It is believed the men were stealing the vehicle in which they were later killed when they were spotted by a neighbour.

Details have emerged about the burglary as part of the police investigation into the fatal crash in Leigh Road, Boothstown.

Police have said a family has come forward, however formal identification of the two men is yet to take place.

The red Audi S4 Quattro, which was seen travelling at 100mph, smashed into a wall, flipped over and exploded into a ball of flames at 8.35pm on Thursday.

Debris from the crash and explosion smashed through windows and set several other parked cars alight.

Police said the two men were so badly burned they are not “readily identifiable”

and are appealing for anyone who thinks they know who could be involved to contact officers so next of kin can be traced.

Just minutes earlier, about 8.25pm, a silver Vauxhall Vectra, containing three men with their faces covered, pulled up at Boscombe Gardens in Farnworth.

Two got out and smashed a window of a house and stole keys to the Audi.

They threatened to shoot a neighbour who was putting the bins out, although no gun was seen, and both cars were driven off at speed.

Minutes later, at 8.32pm, a red Audi and a silver car were spotted speeding by a passing police car in Cecil Street, Walkden. A short time later a police car in Walkden Road saw two cars driving at speed in the opposite direction, towards Leigh Road.

Ch Supt Kevin Mulligan, of the Salford Division, said the vehicles were travelling so fast that by the time the police car turned around, the cars were out of sight.

He stressed officers were searching for the cars in the area, but that no pursuit had taken place.

A Vauxhall Vectra with the registration KA07 GLK was found abandoned a short time later in Mill Brow in Worsley, and officers are now appealing for the driver to come forward.

Ch Supt Mulligan added: “We are still at the early stages of our inquiries and we would urge anyone who may have any information to call us.

“We are appealing to witnesses to the aggravated burglary in Farnworth, to anyone who may have seen these cars driving at speed, and to anyone who may have seen the Vectra being abandoned.

“A very thorough, detailed investigation has been launched to examine the whole circumstances surrounding the events.

“I completely understand that residents living in Leigh Road will be absolutely shocked and upset to see the aftermath of this collision and the damage caused to a number of people's homes, and it is fortunate that more lives were not lost.”

Asked if the aggravated burglary was drug-related Ch Supt Mulligan replied: “It could be a motive but we do not want to rule anything out. It is obviously a nice high performance vehicle.”

Police have no description of the men, and do not know how old they are or where they are from.

Jill Connor, aged 38, whose house is where the crash took place, was walking along Leigh Road with her young son when the car burst into a ball of flames.

She said: “I was walking home with my 10-year-old son as it happened. I heard the noise more than anything.

It must have been going at some speed but I don’t know how fast.

“It flipped up into the air and blew up and debris started flying towards us so we had to turn and run.

We are just lucky we were not closer to it as we could have been killed.

“It was like something out of a 3D film. It was really quiet at first, and then there was screaming, people were screaming ‘get them out’.

“Some tried to get to the car, but there was no way anyone could survive that.

It is the most shocking thing I have ever seen.”

Emily Williams, aged 28, who lives nearby, added: “I work at Tesco in Walkden and I saw it when I came back and the road was closed.

“I spoke to the police and they told me the bodies were still in the car and would not be moved until the forensics came in the morning.

“I know people steal cars, I have been hijacked before, but no-one deserves to be burned to death. They are someone’s son.”

A neighbour whose house took the brunt of the impact, but who asked not to be named, said: “We were in the back when we heard the noise and bricks were coming through the front of the house.

“We ran out the back and thought it was a gas explosion.

“When we were allowed back in we found everything in the front room was smashed, and even bricks from the garden wall had come through the upstairs window and were on the bed.

“It is frightening, if we had been elsewhere in the house we could have been killed.”

The burglary victims declined to comment.

Neighbours saw police as the street was cordoned off but were not aware of the details until it was in the news.

One, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “The people who stole should not have done what they did, but at the end of the day two mothers have lost their sons.”

As per standard protocol, Greater Manchester Police made a mandatory referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The IPCC said the matter had been referred to the watchdog but said it would have to be assessed before a decision was made about whether action would be taken.

Anyone with information should call police on 0161 856 4741 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.