The murderer of Rhys Jones, Sean Mercer, was a convict stopped more than 80 times on the street by police, and on an Asbo on the day he killed the 11-year-old.
He had intended to shoot a rival gang member and, if he had succeeded, Mercer might have been propelled into the transient folklore of Liverpool's notorious gang culture.
Instead, one of three bullets he fired at two rival gangsters killed Rhys Jones and condemned Mercer himself to the level of notoriety that not even he could have imagined.
He would say later that he saw "a kid go down", but he didn't care. All he cared about was saving his own skin. He and his gang tried to destroy the evidence against him, and they struck fear into the minds of those they involved in the cover-up.
On the day of the murder Mercer, then 16, was subject to an Asbo (anti-social behaviour order), imposed because he and some of his friends – including one referred to only as Boy K previously but who can now be named as Dean Kelly, 17 – had been terrorising staff at a local sports centre.
At one stage they threatened to set fire to a security guard's jacket and to "get a knife".
The previous year Mercer had been convicted of possessing a CS gas canister police had found in his home. Eight months after killing Rhys he was caught with cannabis and given a three-month conditional discharge.
The scrawny killer, nicknamed Beaver, had joined the gang in his early teens, but was beginning to rise rapidly through the ranks.
Police knew enough about him to realise he had the potential to become a major player, but until the murder he was just another young thug to keep an eye on.
The shooting is most likely to have been 'a rite of passage', in which Mercer seized the opportunity to prove himself to his fellow gangsters
Officers used anti-social behaviour powers to stop him in the street no less than 80 times between the ages of 14 and 16. On 15 of these occasions he was with two Croccy Head leaders who were later jailed for the murder of a Nogga Dog.
His main ally within the gang appears to have been Boy K, the pair of them generally referred to in MSN chatrooms as The Boys.
Detectives are still unclear about Mercer's motive for opening fire that day – not least because the killer has always refused to speak to them.
However, the shooting is most likely to have been "a rite of passage", in which Mercer seized the opportunity to "prove" himself to his fellow gangsters and the younger wannabes who hung around them.
There was, though, a secondary motive: the long-standing personal grudge Mercer harboured against Wayne Brady, a prominent member of the rival Nogga Dogs gang.
This went back to the days they shared at De La Salle Secondary School, but was compounded by the fact that Brady had been dating Vicki Smart, a model and one-time Miss England contestant, who lived near Mercer's home in Croxteth.
In Mercer's mind Miss Smart, now 19, should have been out of bounds to a Nogga Dog, and it was well known among his gang that one day he was "gonna get" his rival.
Brady, 20, had been shot at twice before by his gangland rivals, but despite this had strayed onto their "turf" the day Rhys died.
Local sources suggest the killer had played a prominent role in the attacks on Brady. However, police were never able to prove this was so.
They learned only after his arrest that two months before Rhys's murder he had ridden through Norris Green on a motorbike, waving a gun as he chased a group of Nogga Dogs.
Mercer stuck to the gangsters' code of silence when detectives arrested him, and in court, too, he refused to speak beyond entering his plea of not guilty.
But beyond the bravado, he will never shake off the fear that gripped him the day a crucial witness refused point-blank to support his alibi.