Four men have been convicted of the murder of a woman who was shot with a machine gun in her home after a fight involving her boyfriend.
Environmental health officer Ashley Dale, 28, died when gunman James Witham, 41, forced open the door of her home in Old Swan, Liverpool, in the early hours of August 21 last year, firing 10 bullets. in her dining room, one of which hit Mrs. Dale in the abdomen while she stood by the back door, and five bullets in the wall of an upstairs bedroom.
Witham admitted her manslaughter, but a jury at Liverpool Crown Court also found him guilty of her murder, along with fellow “foot soldier” Joseph Peers, 29, who the prosecution alleges drove a Hyundai to the scene and earlier helped Witham stab tires on Mrs. Dale’s car in an attempt to lure the occupants of the house.
Niall Barry, 26, and Sean Zeisz, 28, were also convicted of murder after the jury heard they organized and encouraged the murder, which occurred after a row between Miss Dale’s boyfriend Lee Harrison, and Barry was rekindled when Zeisz was attacked at the Glastonbury Festival last year.
Ian Fitzgibbon, 28, also accused of organizing or encouraging the murder, was found not guilty of murder.
Kallum Radford, 26, was found not guilty of helping a criminal store the car used in the murder.
Some relatives of the accused left the court crying after the verdicts were announced.
As Barry’s mother left the court, she mouthed “I love you” toward the dock.
Dale’s mother Julie, 46, cried when the jury returned the first guilty verdict around 2.30pm on Monday.
A trial at Liverpool Crown Court saw Ms Dale’s own voice describing the dispute between her partner and Barry, as voice notes she recorded and sent to friends in the previous two months were played to the jury. to his murder.
The phone, recovered an arm’s length from where Ms Dale was found in her back garden, had been used in her final moments to try to call Mr Harrison, who was out with friends while she spent the night at home , watching television with his dachshund. Darla.
The trial heard Barry’s dispute with Harrison, who did not cooperate with police after his girlfriend’s death, began about three years before the shooting when Harrison sided with the Hillside organized crime group after they allegedly robbed him. drugs Barry.
The dispute was reignited when the pair attended the Glastonbury festival in June 2022, prosecutors alleged.
Fitzgibbon, who flew to Dubai after the shooting and was extradited from Spain in August, told jurors he had seen Barry threaten to stab Harrison during the festival.
In the days after Ms Dale’s murder, Witham and Peers stayed in a hotel in St Helens before traveling to Scotland and Barry was arrested at a golf course in Formby after making plans to flee the country.
Julie Dale said: “In my opinion there will never be justice for me.
“The only justice would have been if this had not happened. At least now I can rest easy knowing that these people are going to pay for what they have done.”
Police Chief Serena Kennedy said she hoped the convictions would provide “some small comfort” to Ms Dale’s family and friends.
She said: “I hope those despicable cowards who will begin their prison sentence will think about the devastating consequences they have had on a family here in Merseyside.”
Witham, of Huyton, Peers, of Roby, and Barry, of Tuebrook, were also found guilty of conspiracy to murder Mr Harrison and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon (the Skorpion submachine gun) and ammunition.
Fitzgibbon, of St Helens, was cleared of those charges.
The sentence will be announced on Wednesday at 11 a.m.