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EDITIONS
 Sunday, 5 January, 2003, 01:37 GMT
Gun crime talks after fatal shootings
From left: Cheryl Shaw, Charlene Ellis, Sophie Ellis and Latisha Shakespeare
Charlene (second left) and Latisha (right) both died
A summit on tackling spiralling gun crime is to be hosted by UK Home Secretary David Blunkett next week in the wake of the fatal shooting of two girls outside a party in Birmingham.

Charlene Ellis, 18, and her 17-year-old cousin Latisha Shakespeare died in a hail of bullets outside a hairdressers where a party was being held in Aston on Thursday.

Without co-operation of the communities closest to those carrying and using guns, the police have an impossible task

David Blunkett
As plans for the conference were confirmed, Mr Blunkett added to police appeals for residents to come forward with information.

Officers have received helpful anonymous calls but still need more help from the public, particularly the 100 people who were at Thursday's party.

Many had fled by the time officers arrived on the scene, and so far police have only been able to speak to about a quarter of those present.

There are hopes reward offers now totalling 85,000 will encourage more people to speak to them.

Legal gaps

The gun crime summit will include police chiefs, community representatives from across the country, customs and immigration officials, and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Friday's discussions, called for by Mr Blunkett and planned for some time, will cover topics including gaps in the law and the rise in small arms imports from the Balkans.

Meanwhile, amid newspaper speculation that new Home Office figures will show a leap in gun-related crime, there are reports that proposed gun law changes will be announced as early as next week.

Tribute left at scene
Tributes have been left at the scene of the shooting
Police think Charlene and Latisha may have died in a gunfight feud between rival gangs in which more than 30 shots were fired from weapons including a sub-machine gun.

On Saturday the families of the two girls visited the scene where they died.

Charlene's twin sister, Sophie is still under armed guard in hospital.

Another girl Cheryl Shaw, 17, has been released from hospital after treatment for a hand wound.

The double killing has prompted calls for greater sensitivity when dealing with the black community to encourage witnesses to come forward.

Leroy Logan, of the Metropolitan Black Police Officers' Association, told BBC News: "Black people like every other section of the community are more than happy to work with the police."

Rewards offered
News of the World: 50,000
Daily Mail: 25,000
Birmingham Evening Mail and Victims of Crime group: 10,000
But they had to be treated with dignity so they did not "feel out on a limb or exposed" if they came forward with information, he added.

Mr Blunkett has added his voice to those urging the community to help.

"The thing that worries me about black on black crime is that without co-operation of the communities closest to those carrying and using guns, the police have an impossible task", the home secretary told the Sunday Telegraph.

A further appeal for witnesses to come forward is expected to be made at a church service near the scene on Sunday.

The home secretary is also due to announce proposals this week for a minimum five-year sentence for carrying guns, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

It also reports Prime Minister Tony Blair is to announce a ban on airguns adapted to fire live bullets.

But a Downing Street spokesman refused to confirm these reports.

He said: "The prime minister's concerns about gun crime are very well-known."

Sir John Stevens with haul of seized guns
Sir John Stevens has already expressed concern over rising gun crime
Such changes to gun laws would be welcomed by the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales.

Writing in Sunday's News of the World, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens called for "drastic measures" to curb the gun culture.

He blamed the increasing influence of Jamaican and American culture and "the glorification of gang warfare".

Anyone with information should contact Canterbury Road police station on 0121 606 7881 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Clarence Mitchell reports from Birmingham
"There were around 100 people here at the time of the shooting"
  Community leader Anthony Gordon
"We need to do something about it"
  Chief Constable Paul Scott-Lee
"Guns are becoming more accessible on the streets"

Click here to go to BBC Birmingham Online
See also:

04 Jan 03 | England
03 Jan 03 | England
03 Jan 03 | Politics
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