Ashley Dale: Four men found guilty of murdering council worker

Four men have been found guilty of murdering council worker Ashley Dale.

The 28-year-old died after being found with a gunshot wound in the garden of her home in Liverpool in the early hours of 21 August last year.

A jury was told the intended target of the shooting was her boyfriend Lee Harrison - described in court as a drug dealer who was in a feud with a rival gang.

However, he wasn't at the property at the time of the attack.

James Witham, 41, Joseph Peers, 29, Niall Barry, 26, and Sean Zeisz, 28, were found guilty of murdering Ms Dale and conspiring to murder Harrison.

Witham, of Huyton, Peers, of Roby, and Barry, of Tuebrook, were also convicted of conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon - the Skorpion sub-machine gun - and ammunition.

Ian Fitzgibbon, 28, was cleared of all those charges.

Kallum Radford, 26, was found not guilty of assisting an offender by helping to store the car used in the murder.

Witham, 41, had forced open the door of Ms Dale's home in Old Swan before firing 10 bullets in her dining room.

One of them hit Ms Dale in the abdomen as she stood by the back door.

Witham also fired five bullets into the wall of an upstairs bedroom "to send a firm message to Lee Harrison", the prosecution said.

Witham admitted Ms Dale's manslaughter but a jury at Liverpool Crown Court found him guilty of her murder

Peers, described as a "foot soldier", drove a Hyundai to the scene and earlier helped Witham to stab tyres on Ms Dale's car in an attempt to lure out the occupants of the house.

Barry and Zeisz organised and encouraged the killing.

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Murder 'has left big hole that can never be filled', says Ashley Dale's mother

The trial was told that Barry's feud with Mr Harrison started about three years before the shooting when Mr Harrison sided with the Hillside organised crime group after they allegedly stole drugs from Barry.

The feud was re-ignited when both attended the Glastonbury festival in June 2022, the prosecution alleged.

Fitzgibbon, who flew to Dubai after the shooting and was extradited from Spain in August, told the jury he had witnessed Barry threatening to stab Mr Harrison during the festival.

Despite being the principal target and his girlfriend being killed, Mr Harrison did not help the police investigation.

The trial heard Ms Dale's own voice describing the falling out between her partner and Barry, as voicenotes which she recorded and sent to friends in the two months before her murder were played to the jury.

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 her dachshund Darla.

Ms Dale's trial was told how she had messaged Mr Harrison on the night she was killed to tell him her car alarm was going off.

The jury was shown photos of damage caused to the tyres of her vehicle

Mr Harrison replied to her message just over 20 minutes later saying: "Hahahaha you think your in a horror movie."

"R u okay? Alive."

At 12.07am, less than half an hour before she was shot, Ms Dale replied: "No I'm dead."

Ms Dale's family broke down in tears in court as the trial was shown the final messages before she died.

In the days following Ms Dale's murder, Witham and Peers stayed in a hotel in St Helens before travelling to Scotland and Barry was arrested at a golf resort in Formby after making plans to flee the country.

Sentencing will take place on Wednesday at 11am.