Daily Mirror

Gangsters’ web of evil

Drug dealers with battlefiel­d weapons leave trail of murder and misery

- BY NICK SOMMERLAD Investigat­ions Editor and HOLLIE BONE Nick.sommerlad@mirror.co.uk @NickSommer­lad

THE senseless murders of innocent women and children has shone a new light on the brutal reality of the Merseyside drugs trade.

Gangsters wielding Skorpion submachine guns capable of firing 15 rounds a second shot dead Ashley Dale and Elle Edwards while targeting rivals.

And Olivia-Pratt Korbel, nine, was killed in August 2022 by Thomas Cashman, who chased fellow drug dealer Joseph Nee into her home in Dovecot, firing handguns indiscrimi­nately.

Kim Alcock, Olivia’s aunt, told the Mirror that violence is just a fact of life.

“This place is riddled with crime but no one seems to want to change it.”

Britain’s seventh largest city, Liverpool plays an outsized role in the importing of drugs, primarily cocaine.

In 2022/23, it had the highest number of drug offences per head of population of any police area – 8.2 per 1,000 compared to 4.2 in Manchester, 4.7 in London and 2.7 in the West Midlands.

Its top-level criminals have built links with drugs kingpins abroad including the powerful Irish Kinahan gang and feared Colombian cartels.

In recent years, old gang hierarchie­s have broken down and criminals have adapted – working together, even with old enemies, to maximise their profits.

But thefts of drugs are common and often lead to fatal consequenc­es.


The trials of the killers of Ashley, Elle and nine-year-old Olivia, while not directly connected, showed how the killers often moved in the same circles.

Underlinin­g the callous disregard they have for their victims and their families, Cashman, now 35, refused to enter the dock for sentencing when he was jailed for life in May.

Ms Alcock added: “This is the area that they live in. We grew up two streets down and we know what it’s like.

“It’s still the ‘no grass’ culture and it always will be. It’s still going on right under the police’s noses.”

Council worker Ashley, 28, was killed in her own home on August 21 last year.

Sean Zeisz, 28, Niall Barry, 26, Joseph Peers, 29, and James Witham, 41, were this week jailed for a total of 173 years.

Ashley’s dad Steven Dunne, whose son Lewis, 16, was also mistakenly shot dead eight years ago, said in a victim impact statement: “I have lost another child; a victim of big egos running around with powerful guns, killing innocent people.”

Ashley’s mum Julie said: “The casual nature of the details about how these people are obtaining guns, it was like a shopping list. You feel like it’s just normal to them. It’s a scary world.”

Connor Chapman, 23, was jailed for a minimum of 48 years in July for opening fire with a Skorpion at the Lighthouse Inn, Wallasey, on Christmas Eve 2022, killing Elle, 26, and injuring five others.

The court heard he was at war with a gang based on the opposite side of the M53 motorway.

Sam Rimmer, 22, was gunned down in Dingle on August 16, again by crooks using a Skorpion. His killers are still at large.

Glenn Lawrence, of firearms and law enforcemen­t

It’s riddled with crime but no one wants to change it


consultanc­y Arquebus Solutions, said the battlefiel­d weapons had been here since “at least the early 2000s” but are now more common.

He said: “This is in part due to the prevalence of deactivate­d or converted Skorpions for sale in Europe being reactivate­d.”

The Mirror has been told of one shipment of Czech military weapons into Merseyside in the mid-90s.

A former Liverpool youth team footballer who drifted into crime had ended up in jail in Amsterdam, where he allegedly met the nephew of a Czech general. A source said: “They formed a plan. The general would open the doors of the armoury. After his release, he drove to the Czech republic with a fleet of Bedford Rascals.

“They were fitted with false bottoms and filled with military-grade Czech weaponry. They returned to Liverpool with semiautoma­tic weapons, rocket launchers and grenades. “Grenades got into the hands of gangs. One was left outside the home of football legend Kenny Dalglish.”

The source linked recent violence in Liverpool to Operation Venetic, the National Crime Agency-led response to the hack of the criminal Encrochat phone network in 2020.

Out of 10,000 UK criminals who used the phones to send encrypted messages, the Mirror understand­s nearly 900 were linked to Merseyside.

The source said: “The top boys were arrested or disappeare­d. Those guys are still running things from inside or from abroad. But it left the young guys to do their dirty work.”

Dr Robert Hesketh, from the School of Justice Studies at Liverpool John Moores University, admitted “the community is worried”. But he added of the crimewave: “Some people are attracted to it. I’ve spoken to women involved with these individual­s. They tell me, ‘I know what he does but I don’t know, if you get my drift’.”

Merseyside Police said the number of firearms discharges since April was down 78% on the same period in 2022. The number of homicides have dropped from 16 in a year to two.

 ?? ??
 ?? ?? HORROR Cartridge found after Elle died
HORROR Cartridge found after Elle died
 ?? ?? ACTIVE THREAT Skorpion gun like that used to kill Ashley
ACTIVE THREAT Skorpion gun like that used to kill Ashley
 ?? ?? MURDER & MAYHEM Sean Zeisz, Niall Barry, Joseph Peers and James Witham were this week convicted of killing Ashley
MURDER & MAYHEM Sean Zeisz, Niall Barry, Joseph Peers and James Witham were this week convicted of killing Ashley
 ?? ?? HAUL Cocaine siezed in Liverpool raid on gang
HAUL Cocaine siezed in Liverpool raid on gang

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