Gang members' parents jailed over Rhys murder cover-up

The mother of the thug who armed Rhys Jones’s murderer described the killer as “brave” with a “lot of bottle”, a court heard today.

Hobbling Marie Yates, 51, admitted perverting the course of justice by burning a mobile phone Sim card belonging to her gang member son James Yates, 21.

James, who gave killer Sean Mercer, 18, the 1915 Smith and Wesson used to shoot Rhys, 11, was key in trying to cover up the killing and enlisted the help of parents Marie and Frank, 49.

Gasps were heard at Liverpool Crown Court as bug evidence from the Yates’s home was relayed.

Discussing the murderer’s recklessness of shooting across the car park of a crowded pub, the mother-of-three said of Mercer: “Oh my good God, brave isn’t it?”

She added: “Whoever has done it has a lot of bottle.”

Shocked members of the public gallery looked into the glass-sealed dock as Yates – a grandmother of two – sat stony-faced looking at the floor.

Alongside her were her husband and Mercer’s mother Janette Mercer, 49.

After denying their guilt for months, Frank and Marie Yates, of Dodman Road, Croxteth, admitted perverting the course of justice.

They both admitted burning the Sim card and Frank Yates – who has seven previous convictions – admitted suggesting a false alibi to Mercer.

He was jailed for four and a half years and his wife was jailed for 18 months. Janette Mercer was given three years for trying to derail the investigation by lying about her killer son’s bicycles.

Rhys was killed on 22 August 2007.

He was hit in the neck by a bullet as he walked home from football training across the Fir Tree pub car park and bled to death in his mother Melanie’s arms.

Tonight, she and her husband Stephen said they had finally received “complete justice”.

The couple spoke out after enduring 12 months of court cases which culminated with today’s sentencing.

Speaking outside court, Mr Jones, a 45-year-old supermarket manager, stood by his wife’s side and said: “Today we feel we have finally got complete justice for Rhys.

“In our eyes Mrs Mercer and Mr and Mrs Yates have always been as guilty as their sons."

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