Four men found guilty of murder of Ashley Dale who was shot with machine gun

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  • Four men have been found guilty of the murder of a council worker who was shot in her home during a cowardly machine gun attack. 

    James Witham, 41, Joseph Peers, 29, Niall Barry, 26, and Sean Zeisz, 28, have been found guilty at Liverpool Crown Court of the murder of 28-year-old Ashley Dale, who was shot in her home in August 2022.

    The four men have been on trial at Liverpool Crown Court accused of her murder, and were unanimously convicted by a jury this afternoon, Monday, November 20, the ECHO reports.

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    They were also found guilty of conspiracy to murder Ms Dale's boyfriend Lee Harrison and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon, namely a Skorpion submachine gun, and ammunition with intent to endanger life. 

    Ian Fitzgibbon was cleared of these three charges while a sixth defendant, Kallum Radford, was acquitted of assisting an offender.

    Paul Greaney KC told jurors during the prosecution's opening last month that gunman Witham and "driver" Peers, were "dispatched" to the home to assassinate Harrison and "leave no witnesses". 

    They had allegedly received their orders from Barry, Zeisz and Fitzgibbon – who were said to have been "directing operations" from a flat nearby.

    The court heard that, at around 11.40pm on August 20 2022, two men approached Ashley’s white Volkswagen T-Roc car – which was parked outside the house – and slashed its tyres, causing the alarm to sound, in an effort to "lure" the occupants out. 

    But it is thought Ashley believed the alarm had been set off by heavy rain and, as a result, did not leave her home, where she was spending the evening alone with her dachshund Darla.

    The men were undeterred by the foiled attempt and returned later and kicked the door in. 

    "This time, they were not to be diverted from their intention to kill. One of the men approached the front door of 40 Leinster Road and he kicked it in," Paul Greaney KC said.

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    "Ashley plainly became aware of what was happening. She screamed and fled towards the back door of the house, but the man entered the house and he pursued her.

    "He was armed with a machine gun and opened fire. Ashley was struck by a bullet – it passed through her abdomen, causing catastrophic damage."

    Mr Greaney said that "certain events at Glastonbury Festival" in June 2022 had "played an important part" in the alleged motive behind the attack.

    Witham admitted having barged down the door of Ashley's home and sprayed the property with bullets using a Skorpion submachine gun.

    But the 41-year-old claimed he did not see or hear Ashley inside and was instead attempting to "send a message" to Harrison, with whom he had supposedly been in dispute with over drug dealing in North Wales.

    He denied having plotted with others to arrange the shooting beforehand, stating that he had decided to discharge the gun at the address, which he said he believed was empty, on the spur of the moment while drunk and high on cocaine. 

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