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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
Mothers seek to tackle gun crime
Marcia Shakespeare
Marcia Shakespeare hopes to learn from New York's experiences
Two women whose daughters were shot dead by gang members are launching a campaign against gun violence.

The mothers of Letisha Shakespeare, 17, and Charlene Ellis, 18, are travelling to New York to see how the problem is tackled there.

In the US they will meet lobby group Women Against Gun Crimes and officials.

Innocent victims Letisha and Charlene were killed while celebrating New Year's Eve in Birmingham.

Witness care

Letisha's mother, Marcia, and Charlene's mother, Beverley, hope to persuade their community to expose their daughters' killers and put an end to the gang culture.

Charlene's twin sister Sophie and 17-year-old Cheryl Shaw were also injured when they were caught up in a feud between two rival north Birmingham gangs.

Letisha Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis
If four innocent girls can get shot, that means anybody can get shot
Sandra Thomas, Cheryl's mother

The killers have not been caught.

Mrs Shakespeare said she hoped the campaign, Safer Lives Safer Communities, would make children feel safer when they are on the streets.

The trio's trip is being funded by Disarm, a nation-wide group set up in the wake of the killings.

Mrs Shakespeare said she hoped to learn from the experiences in New York, as "gun crime has been going on a lot longer than it has in England, so they have more knowledge".

During the eight-day visit the women will investigate the city's gang prevention and witness care programmes.

'Innocent girls'

They will also be joined in New York by Cheryl's mother, Sandra Thomas, who appealed for the community in Aston, where the shooting happened, to expose the killers.

"If four innocent girls can get shot, that means anybody can get shot," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

At the inauguration of the campaign on Wednesday afternoon, Beverley Thomas said: "We have tried appealing to criminals and gangs to lay their guns down.

"We have tried gun amnesties, but still our children are being gunned down, still people are dying through the random acts of violence that occur in our cities and towns.

"This campaign, Safer Lives Safer Communities, is a locally-based campaign with a national vision - to put an end to the rule of the gun in our cities."

Drug connection?

The mothers believe that drugs played a part in the killings.

Mrs Shakespeare said: "A normal person would not just go out there and kill someone for no reason.

"They had to have some form of drugs to do that type of thing."

She said the four teenagers were "innocent girls" who "had full lives ahead of them".

"They did not have anything in relation to any gang members or gun crime or drug abuse."


WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Midlands Today's Giles Latcham
"They'll meet police officers and learn about a witness protection programme."



SEE ALSO:
Mothers tell MPs of shooting impact
02 Jul 03  |  West Midlands
Safety concerns after shooting
30 Jun 03  |  West Midlands
Shooting victim's birthday funeral
17 Feb 03  |  England



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