IT was an East London bookmaking empire that stretched from a nightclub beloved by gangsters to the legendary Walthamstow Stadium dog track.

And Philip Chandler Senior was in charge of it all — amassing a £40million fortune.

When he decided to call time on his wheeling and dealing, he gambled on a happy retirement in Mexico, only to meet his death in a swimming pool two years ago.

Cops were quick to rule out any crime, but now the former nightclub owner’s only child has come forward with explosive allegations of foul play.

The well-heeled, ocean-side community of La Punta, in Manzanillo, Mexico, is now abuzz with claims of a murder mystery.

While Philip Chandler Jr alleges that his father must have been poisoned by a hitman, other locals have ripped down his posters offering a reward of $US50,000 — more than £38,000 — for information.

Another local separately accused the 49-year-old of launching a “witch hunt” against Philip Sr’s second wife over a cash dispute, which he denies.

Philip Jr insists he is not just trying to get his hands on his famous father’s fortune.

He told The Sun: “I just want to get to the truth. There are so many unanswered questions about my dad’s demise and I can’t help worry about what really happened to him.

“If he was murdered I want to know. I’ve got people in Mexico trying to unearth the truth and requesting a full and proper police investigation.

“I owe this to my dad. We had our ups and downs but were on great terms in the years before his death.

“I also want to get what is rightfully mine — half of his estate.”

Philip Chandler Sr was born into a family whose name was as synonymous with Cockney life as the Walthamstow dog track, opened by his bookie grandfather in 1933.

As well as the iconic venue, which featured on the album cover of Blur’s album Parklife and in Guy Ritchie’s s gangster movie Snatch, he ran the adjoining Charlie Chan’s nightclub.

Favoured by footballers, gangsters and soap stars it was a magnet for glamorous crowd in the 80s and 90s.

Philip Sr, who split from his son’s mum Stephanie around 1981, also owned a string of local betting shops.

Second wife Sharon had been an employee at one of his businesses when they met.

The couple decided to retire to Mexico after holidaying in the port town of Manzanillo during the 80s, when they had rubbed shoulders with stars including Sylvester Stallone, Barbra Streisand and Julio Iglesias.

The pair had been married for 28 years when the businessman was found dead in their dream retirement villa aged 72.

A pool cleaner found his body floating in the small swimming pool at his Mexican villa, in a gated community with a barrier and guards at the front, at 10am on July 18, 2016.

It was submerged in 5ft of water, fully clothed including his sandals.

Wife Sharon, who is thought to split her time between Mexico and the UK, was in England when tragedy struck.

There is no suggestion she had any involvement with her husband’s death.

Cops initially suspected Philip Sr, who was a strong swimmer, had had a heart attack and fallen in the pool.

But his estate agent son began to hear various other explanations — including that he had choked, was hit on the head and was found half in and half out of the pool.

Friends even speculated that he had tripped over his energetic black miniature schnauzer, Rocky, causing him to fall into the water.

But then, suddenly, the mystery appeared to be cleared up.

The death certificate for Philip Sr stated the cause of death was an “accident” from drowning, with no mention of a heart attack.

An examination found no marks on his body, but a full autopsy was never done and the bookie was cremated just three days after his death, in accordance with local legal requirements.

The hasty inquiry worried Philip Jr. He sent two separate investigators to quiz those caught up in the incident.

Philip Jr, from Buckhurst Hill, Essex, said: “When I sent the investigators, it transpired that the mortician said there was no heart attack, no injury to the head or otherwise.

“He was found floating face down in the pool with no alcohol in his system.

“What they are trying to tell me is that the cause of death for my father, one of the strongest swimmers I’ve ever met, is drowning in five feet of water when he was sober.”

Philip Jr told The Sun that he believes his charismatic dad met a more sinister end.

He added: “There was an empty plate in the outside dining area and a bottle of vodka that had not been touched. I think he was poisoned.”

Convinced a “hitman” may have been responsible, he plastered flyers across the resort town offering the 50,000 US dollar reward for information — raising local hackles.

Pals of his father told The Sun they had now ripped the posters down.

A source said: “They fear that $50,000 is such an obscene amount of money in Mexico that somebody might be tempted to say anything — just to get the cash.”

And he is not the only one in the family to have concerns.

The late businessman’s cousin, Michael Chandler, said: “We are getting so many different reasons of how Philip died. We want to know the truth.”

But close friends of Philip’s father say he is just trying to stir up trouble after he was left out of his the multi-million pound estate, stored in overseas banks accounts, stocks, shares and bonds.

Pal Jimmy Brown, originally from Minnesota, says Philip Jr’s claims that his dad and Sharon had become estranged in the years before his death are nonsense.

Speaking with wife Barbara at his Pacifica restaurant, which is covered in pictures of the Englishman known affectionately as “Lord Chandler”, Jimmy told The Sun: “If there was an estrangement — we didn’t know. Nobody knew.”

Gerry Szakacs, 68, another pal of Philip Sr’s in Mexico, described his late friend’s son as “full of s***”.

He added: “Philip Jr only hears what he wants to hear. He is convinced something happened and there is no changing his mind.”

His wife Dorothy, 65, added: “The police and coroner here are extremely well trained.

“If they had any inkling that there was something untoward, they wouldn’t have released the body. You can drown in one foot of water.”

Gerry also claimed Philip Sr told him that he was cutting his son out of his will.

He recalled: “He specifically verbalised to me that things changed and everything was going to Sharon and he had set the trustees up to oversee this.”

Dorothy said: “Philip Jr says he was so close to his father. He wasn’t. His father barely tolerated him.”

The couple also begged Philip Jr to call of what they see as a “witch hunt” to spare Sharon further torment.

But Philip Jr, for his part, insists he was close with his dad – and blames Sharon for any tension.

He said “Every opportunity she could get, she would be whispering in my father’s ear.

“I could tell because the words coming out of his mouth were not his own.

“I have been told I am not in the will but my father told me that everything was half mine. I want half my inheritance.”

Meanwhile, grieving widow Sharon told The Sun of her stepson: “He’s exhausted every single avenue and he will do everything in his power to destroy me, he’s only after money.

“It has taken him two years to decide that his father was murdered? I’ve not heard a bigger load of crap in my life. He’s just after money.

“I was sole beneficiary, Philip’s son was told he was not going to be left anything in the will because we have given him enough, hundreds of thousands, over the years.

“So why would he be left in the will?

“It’s my husband looking after me, he has looked after him for many, many years.

“It is two years and he still wont leave me alone.

“He is what he is, he is a money-grabbing bastard.”