Historic Murder Verdict
In a groundbreaking legal case, four men were found guilty of the brutal murder of council worker Ashley Dale.
The case is notable for being the first in British legal history to use recorded testimony from the victim, provided through hundreds of voice notes, to secure convictions.
The Accused and Their Roles: A Deadly Feud Unveiled
James Witham, Joseph Peers, Niall Barry, and Sean Zeisz faced life sentences for orchestrating the murder of Ashley Dale, allegedly due to her partner’s feud with criminal rivals. Ian Fitzgibbon, accused of organizing the killing, was found not guilty.
Feud Origins: Glastonbury Festival and Escalating Violence
The feud between Lee Harrison and Niall Barry, nicknamed ‘Branch,’ began three years earlier over an alleged drug theft.
The conflict reignited at the Glastonbury Festival in 2022, escalating into a planned ‘hit’ with Harrison as the intended target.
Victim’s Recorded Testimony: Unveiling the Feud
During the trial, jurors heard recorded voice notes from Ashley Dale, where she described the escalating feud between Harrison and Barry.
The messages provided a clear picture of the dispute and served as crucial evidence in the case.
The Planned ‘Hit’ and Fatal Consequences: Ashley Dale’s Tragic End
The feud reached its peak when Witham and Peers, armed with a Skorpion submachine gun, targeted Harrison.
However, Ashley Dale, 28, became an unintended victim, shot deliberately and mercilessly in her home on August 21, 2022, amid escalating violence between Merseyside drug gangs.
Trial Details: Prosecution’s Case and Evidence
Prosecutor Paul Greaney detailed how environmental health officer Ashley Dale’s iPhone messages portrayed the intensifying feud.
The messages captured her fears and stress as the conflict between Barry and Harrison reached a critical point.
The Fatal Night: Skorpion Submachine Gun and Planned Ambush
On the night of the murder, Witham and Peers, armed with the Skorpion, targeted Harrison’s residence. The plan involved slashing the car tires to lure the occupants outside, but Ashley Dale remained indoors, unaware of the impending danger.
Ashley Dale’s Last Moments: Tragedy Strikes
Witham kicked down the front door, and despite her attempts to escape, Ashley Dale was shot deliberately and mercilessly. Witham then fired bullets into a bedroom wall as a message to Harrison, indicating that he too should be dead.
Arrests and Additional Charges: Conspiracies Unveiled
Barry, Zeisz, Witham, and Peers faced charges of conspiracy to murder Harrison and possessing a prohibited weapon and ammunition.
Additional jail time awaited Barry and Zeisz due to intercepted communications using the Encrochat messaging service.
Wider Context: Violence Among Merseyside Gangs
The murder of Ashley Dale was one of five fatal shootings in Merseyside amid escalating violence between drug gangs.
The trial brought attention to the broader issue of gang-related violence, with other victims including Olivia Pratt-Korbel, Elle Edwards, Sam Rimmer, and Jacqueline Rutter.
Conclusion: Legal Milestone Amidst Tragedy
As the four men face life sentences for their roles in Ashley Dale’s murder, the case marks a historic milestone in British legal history.
The use of recorded testimony from the victim beyond the grave sets a precedent in securing justice and holding perpetrators accountable.