Man who supplied gun used to kill Rhys Jones, 11, to be freed from jail early

David Harding
James Yates (Rex)

The man who supplied the gun used in the 2007 murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones is to be released from prison.

Habitual offender James Yates, who is serving 12 years for his part in the murder which shocked the nation, is expected to be released tomorrow, apparently at the first time of asking for parole.

The 30-year-old was not only the man who supplied a Smith and Wesson revolver to murderer Sean Mercer, who shot Rhys, but also helped him to destroy the weapon.

He was due to be released in 2020.

Slain 11-year-old, Rhys Jones (Rex)


Rhys’s parents, Melanie and Stephen after their son’s murderer was convicted (Rex)


A source told the Sun: ‘Yates is a serial criminal and a nasty piece of work. Although he didn’t pull the trigger, he set the wheels firmly in motion for Rhys’s death.

‘His release is devastating news. How many chances does he get?’

Rhys, an Everton fan who was returning from football practice, was hit by a bullet fired by Croxteth Crew gang member, Mercer, himself 16. His intended targets were rival gang members.

Yates was jailed for seven years in 2009 but this was considered lenient and increased to 12 years by the Court of Appeal.

Sean Mercer, Rhys’s killer. He was 16-years-old at the time of the incident (Rex)

He was released in 2014 only to be arrested two years later by police investigating drug deals in Scotland. He was not convicted but went back to prison for breaching his licence.

When released it is thought Yates will be banned from the Croxteth area, where Rhys’s parents still live.

The murder was retold in a TV drama, Little Boy Blue.