Page last updated at 14:52 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

Rhys killer's gang is sentenced

Left to right, Nathan Quinn, Dean Kelly, James Yates
Quinn (left), Kelly (centre) and Yates (right) were jailed

Four members of a gang who helped the killer of Liverpool schoolboy Rhys Jones evade police, have been sentenced.

James Yates, 20, Nathan Quinn, 18, Dean Kelly, 17, and Boy M, 16, were found guilty of helping killer Sean Mercer.

Rhys, 11, was shot dead by Mercer in Croxteth on 22 August 2007.

At Liverpool Crown Court Yates was sentenced to seven years, Kelly received four years, and Quinn two. Boy M was given a supervision order.

The supervision order will run for two years. Boy M was also handed a four-month curfew to run from 1900 GMT to 0700 GMT.

Mercer has already been sentenced and will serve a minimum of 22 years after shooting Rhys dead in the car park of the Fir Tree pub as the youngster walked home from football practice.

We are disgusted at the seven-year sentence given to Sean Mercer's accomplice, James Yates
Stephen and Melanie Jones

Yates, of Dodman Road; Quinn, of Wickett Close; Kelly, of Sword Walk, and Boy M, all from Croxteth, were found guilty of assisting an offender along with fellow Croxteth Crew members Gary Kays, 26, and Melvin Coy, 25.

Speaking after the hearing, Rhys' parents Stephen and Melanie Jones said: "These sentences can in no way compensate for the loss of our loving son who had the world and his future at his feet.

"We are disgusted at the seven-year sentence given to Sean Mercer's accomplice, James Yates.

"In our minds he is the one who provided the gun that killed our son."

The 10-week trial heard the four, along with Kays and Coy, destroyed evidence and hid the murder weapon.

After the killing, Mercer, of Good Shepherd Close, Croxteth, fled the scene by bike to the house of Boy M where a cover-up plan was hatched.

Sean Mercer
Mercer was found guilty of murder after a nine-week trial

Kays and Coy drove Mercer to an industrial site in Kirkby, Merseyside, where his clothes were burned and petrol poured over his body to remove gun residue. Kelly was then said to have provided Mercer with a false alibi.

Sentencing Yates, Judge Justice Irwin said: "There is strong evidence you were an active gang member, trusted by Mercer.

"You and Quinn were first on the scene at the home of Boy M.

"I have no doubt you were a willing assistant helping in any way you could to dispose of the gun and to travel to Kirkby."

The court heard Yates had made a partial confession to a probation officer while in jail, but he was still a threat.

Coy, of Mallard Close and Kays, of Abbeyfield Drive, both West Derby, have already been jailed for seven years each.

Quinn's two year term will be added to a five-year sentence for a previous gun-related offence.

After the sentencing, Det Supt Dave Kelly of Merseyside Police, said: "Ultimately nothing can bring Rhys back, but we hope that his family can find some peace in the fact that justice has been served.

"This has been a long and difficult investigation, particularly for members of Rhys's family and the witnesses who helped secure these convictions."

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "This tragic case shows the people of Merseyside that they can feel confident that crimes such as this will be prosecuted and that measures can be put in place to ensure that witnesses who come forward can be protected and helped to feel secure and comfortable when giving evidence."

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