Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News
Brothers’ role in shooting by fake delivery man
APAIR of drug lord brothers were involved in a brutal shooting carried out by a fake pizza delivery man, the Weekly News can reveal.
Alan and John Tobin supplied hundreds of kilos of cocaine, heroin, ketamine and cannabis to notorious gangs across the UK.
But the “lavish lifestyle” they enjoyed came crashing down after police intercepted a van ferrying £20m of cocaine up the M6.
Alan, 52, of Regency Park, Widnes, and John, 40, formerly of Manor Road, Prescot, were jailed in April after admitting the drug plots.
At that hearing, Liverpool Crown Court heard Alan was also awaiting sentencing for his part in a botched shooting in Warrington.
However, that couldn’t be reported until this week, when John – who was set to face trial – admitted his involvement in the underworld hit.
It saw an innocent man shot by a drug dealer who knocked on his door and shouted “pizza delivery” while holding fast food boxes.
Convicted heroin dealer Liam Byrne Junior was the intended target of the attack, by a gang who travelled from Liverpool to his home in Poplars Avenue, Orford, on the evening of April 24, 2020.
His stepdad, David Barnes, 56, opened the door and the disguised hitman – Everton soldier Aaron Bretherton – fired up to four shots, one of which left him with a life-changing leg injury.
Bretherton, his getaway driver Anthony Morris and “fixer” Lewis Fitzpatrick – all convicted after a trial earlier this year – escaped in a Transit van.
The jury in their trial heard the attack was ordered over EncroChat by alleged gangland boss Jamie Rothwell, who was thousands of miles away in Spain.
Liverpool Crown Court heard it was John Tobin who provided Byrne’s address to his brother Alan and to Rothwell.
John appeared in court via video link from jail, when his lawyer, Jason Smith, asked for him to be rearraigned.
He then pleaded guilty to participating in the activities of an organised crime gang (OCG).
The charge stated: “Between April 8, 2020 and April 27, 2020, you participated in the criminal activities of an OCG by A, communicating with Alan Tobin on an encrypted device, B, providing the address of Liam Byrne to Alan Tobin and Jamie Rothwell, C, agreeing to travel with Alan Tobin to the area of Liam Byrne’s home address, and D, discussing the shooting of David Barnes including advising Alan Tobin not to conduct internet searches concerning the shooting, knowing or reasonably suspecting that these activities would help an OCG to carry on criminal activities.”
Jaime Hamilton, QC, prosecuting, said John Tobin would be sentenced alongside his brother, who previously admitted conspiring to cause grievous bodily harm, and Bretherton, Morris and Fitzpatrick.
Judge Stuart Driver, QC, said this would take place on September 10.
Alan Tobin, a dad-of-five who worked as a mental health nurse while also moving huge amounts of cocaine under the EncroChat alias “CapeRocket”, is already serving a 20-year prison sentence for his drug dealing.
His “greedy” wife, Helen Hartley, 35, aka Ellie Tobin, who enjoyed luxury holidays funded by ill-gotten-gains, was also locked up for possessing criminal property.
John Tobin, aka “SlightDrake” – himself shot near his family’s home in Prescot last year over debts to a mysterious woman known only as “The Banker” – was jailed for 19 years and eight months over their drug empire.
Bretherton, of Netherfield Road South, Everton; Fitzpatrick, 26, of Eldersfield Road, Norris Green; and Morris, 23, of no fixed address, were all found guilty of conspiring to cause grievous bodily harm in March.
Bretherton previously admitted being the gunman but, along with Fitzpatrick and Morris, denied being part of a plot to shoot the victim’s stepson. He failed to convince jurors he was operating as a “lone wolf”.
Police later searched his flat and found a Glock 19 handgun hidden in the extractor fan of his cooker, then ammunition and a magazine for the Austrian weapon stashed in bathroom fan.
However, tests of the bullet casings found at the crime scene showed that gun wasn’t the one used to shoot Mr Barnes, leading detectives to believe two guns, at least, were handled by the Liverpool gang.
On the morning of the shooting, arranger Fitzpatrick got in touch with Bretherton, when the serving soldier was at his barracks in Chester, before the pair travelled to Warrington together on a reconnaissance mission.
Morris later took a white Transit van from the garage he worked for in Connah’s Quay, and headed to Liverpool.
That vehicle was seen outside Bretherton’s flat before all three men journeyed together to Warrington, arriving at about 8.45pm.
After the attack, Morris’ phone was used to search for “shooting in Warrington now”, “gun shooting Warrington”, “Warrington police” and “man shot in Warrington today” as curiosity got the better of the gang to see how the crime was being reported.
Rothwell, 34, of Grindon Avenue, Salford, is accused of 11 separate charges relating to firearms, drugs and criminal property, and is set to stand trial in Manchester in November this year.
The allegations include that he was the orchestrator of the hit on David Barnes and also arranged a plan to shoot Charlie Cullen, at an address on Sinclair Avenue, Longford, on the same night.
Mr Cullen is the dad of gun and drug criminals Anthony Cullen and Leon Cullen, who are serving 27-year and 22-and-a-half-year prison sentences respectively.