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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 October, 2003, 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK
Three hurt in drive-by shooting
Drive-by shooting
Forensic teams searched the crime scene for clues
Police are investigating a drive-by shooting in Reading which injured three men.

The three were taken to hospital after being blasted by a shotgun in the Berkshire town on Friday evening.

Police believe the men were targeted, but said they did not yet know why.

Hours earlier a man was shot dead in a quiet Hertfordshire town, and both incidents have added to concerns about rising gun crime in the UK.

Thames Valley Police said the three victims, who reportedly play for a local football team, were all local men in their 20s.

They said they had not yet established a motive for the shooting, but Detective Chief Inspector Dave Lewis said it was not a random attack.

David King

"We don't think this was an indiscriminate drive-by shooting. We think these people were targeted," he said.

It is understood the three were walking along the residential Elm Park Road, near Oxford Road in the west of Reading, when the shooting happened at about 2230 BST.

Police would not speculate on whether the crime was linked to local drug dealing, but said they were aware drugs had been a problem in the area "in the recent past".

It is believed both a shotgun and possibly a 9mm handgun were fired from a blue or black old-style Volvo type car, but it was the shotgun which caused the injuries.

One of the men suffered serious facial injuries, while the other two suffered pellet wounds to their arms and back.

The men were taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital. The two with back injuries were released shortly afterwards, but the third was still undergoing surgery on Saturday.

Drug crime

The three were pleasant, respectable people with no connection to drugs, one resident said.

One of the men was said to run a hairdressing business while another worked in an office.

Police search Elm Park Road
I suspect that it is linked to the rise in drug gangs peddling heroin and crack cocaine in the town
Reading West MP Martin Salter
Police think at least two people were in the car, and appealed for witnesses with any information.

Local residents and politicians linked the shooting to drug-dealing and prostitution in the Oxford Road area.

Reading West MP Martin Salter said street crime had been falling in Reading since it became one of 10 areas earmarked by a government initiative.

"I am appalled that gun crime should show its ugly face in what is a relatively quiet residential road.

"This incident is a real setback and I suspect that it is linked to the rise in drug gangs peddling heroin and crack cocaine in the town."

Labour councillor and former Mayor of Reading, Tony Jones, said drug-dealing and prostitution were a "growing problem" in the area.

"This is a tremendous shock, but there is almost a sense of inevitability about it," he added.

Point blank

Levi Alleyne, 24, who lives in Elm Park Road, said: "It's getting worse and worse round here, the drug problem is spiralling."

Steven Maynard, 33, said: "I live a couple of roads down from here and we've got used to hearing the police helicopter flying around.

"But there's never been anything like this before."

Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said the shooting was a sign of the government's failure to get a grip on gun crime.

Shooting scene
A man was shot dead in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, on Friday
"One might have thought that this was Baghdad. In fact it is Blair's Britain.

"Gun crime has nearly doubled since 1997, with no effective police presence on the streets of our neighbourhoods and no effective programme of intensive abstinence-based treatment for hard drug users."

The shooting is at least the third in Britain in a week.

On Friday 32-year-old David King was shot dead and another man injured when gunmen opened fire with machine guns in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire.

Mr King, a builder from Stevenage with a criminal background, died after the two gunmen pulled up in a van next to him and opened fire.

The injured man has since been discharged from hospital and is at a secret location, police said.

And on Tuesday jeweller Marian Bates was shot at point blank by robbers at her shop in Arnold, Nottingham.

Two days ago, Home Secretary David Blunkett told the Labour conference that gun crime would be a priority if the government won a third term.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Clarence Mitchell
"Ministers argue that gun crime is still relatively rare"



SEE ALSO:
Shooting victim had criminal past
04 Oct 03  |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Shopkeepers raise reward money
03 Oct 03  |  Nottinghamshire
Blunkett vows to curb gun crime
02 Oct 03  |  Politics
Dozens arrested in drug raids
27 Sep 03  |  Berkshire


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