Shot Liverpool boy 'strayed into gang fued'

Innocent English schoolboy Rhys Jones died when he strayed into a feud between rival gangs, a court heard today.

He was hit by a bullet fired by teenager Sean Mercer and died a few hundred yards from his home, it was alleged.

Mercer (aged 18) who denies the 11-year-old’s murder, immediately tried to cover his tracks and was helped by six fellow gang members, including three other teenagers, it was alleged.

Opening the prosecution case, Neil Flewitt QC told the Liverpool Crown Court jury: “Immediately after he killed Rhys Jones, Sean Mercer set about distancing himself from the tragic events at the Fir Tree public house.

“He moved quickly to dispose of his clothing, his pedal cycle and the gun that he had used to such devastating effect.”

Rhys was shot dead in the Fir Tree pub car park on August 22 last year as he made his way home from football training in Croxteth Park, Liverpool.

Mr Flewitt said: “At almost exactly the same time as Rhys Jones walked on to the car park, a hooded gunman on a bicycle approached the scene from the rear of the Fir Tree pub and took up a position on the grass in front of the fence running alongside the path on the far side of the car park.

“The gunman fired a total of three shots across the car park.

“One of those shots hit Rhys Jones in the neck and killed him.

“It is the prosecution case that the defendant, Sean Mercer, was the person who fired that fatal shot and that he is, therefore, guilty of the offence of murder.”

Mr Flewitt said Mercer, who was wielding a Smith & Wesson .455 revolver, had not intended to shoot Rhys.

“On the contrary, it is the prosecution case that he was the innocent victim of a long-running feud between rival gangs operating in and around the area of the Fir Tree public house.”

The shooting was the result of “fierce and frequently violent rivalry” between young gang members from Croxteth’s Crocky Crew and nearby Norris Green’s Strand Gang, also known as the Nogga Dogs.

The prosecution alleges that Mercer, of Good Shepherd Close, Croxteth, was helped to avoid justice by six other members of the Crocky Crew.

James Yates (aged 20) Melvin Coy (aged 25) and Gary Kays (aged 25) as well as two 17-year-old boys and a 16-year old boy, who are too young to be named, all deny assisting an offender.

Mr Flewitt said there had been more than 70 incidents involving the two gangs, including tit-for-tat shootings.

He said Mercer was firing at three members of the Strand Gang that night.

“It is therefore the prosecution case that the murder of Rhys Jones was yet another, and even more tragic, example of the mindless and indiscriminate violence that is a feature of the rivalry between the Croxteth Crew and the Strand Gang.”

Mr Flewitt, talking the jury through geographical diagrams and outlining the history of the gangs’ violence towards one another, said the Croxteth Crew’s activities “not only provide the motive for the murder of Rhys Jones but also led to the involvement of the other defendants in this appalling episode”.

He said “the strength of the loyalty that existed among gang members and their associates explains the speed and enthusiasm” with which the six co-accused “help Sean Mercer avoid responsibility for the dreadful events of August 22 2007”.

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