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Last Updated: Monday, 11 September 2006, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Killing surprises few in Moss Side
By Nick Ravenscroft
BBC North of England correspondent

On Saturday night 15-year-old Jessie James was shot dead in Manchester's notoriously deprived inner-city area of Moss Side. How has the community reacted to the killing?

Moss Side
Flowers have been laid where Jessie was shot

One day after the shooting, police have opened up the park where Jessie died.

Groups of youths stand in the precise spot where Jessie's body was found and some teenagers have lit candles. It seems to be a kind of vigil, but outsiders are not invited.

This neighbourhood feels wounded both by the violence and the negative publicity which follows.

The attack, with a semi-automatic pistol, was the latest in a string of shootings. Some locals seem resigned to it.

A young woman who lives close to the park said: "This year there's been four shootings and I'm not even scared anymore because I'm used to it. It's not even horrible anymore - it's just normal."

Gang culture

Manchester may have as many as 500 gang members. There is a concentration in a strip just south of the city centre stretching from Hulme to Longsight, passing through Moss Side - a poor area and the hub of the city's black community.

Another young man is dead, another mother is going to be suffering
Patsy McKie

Manchester's gang members are disproportionately from ethnic minorities, although most are British born.

Analysts say the city's modern gang culture began in the 1970s in deprived areas where it was often hard to make money through legitimate means.

Some turned to drug dealing, mainly in cannabis. People on the street say it is still a centre for dealing - although today's drugs are harder.

About 100 yards from the park, a group of Asian youths has gathered. One of them said: "Moss Side is seen as, like, a place for drugs - so gang members usually hang around there and if you get involved with them these things are bound to happen.

"I think life would be fine if you stay away from them groups."

There's always gunshots, there's always murders, there's always violence
Moss Side resident

That view is partly right - the gangs do mainly shoot at each other, but innocent blood is spilled. Police say there is no evidence Jessie James was a gang member - he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Patsy McKie's son Dorrie was shot dead at the age of 20. Six years on she is still full of questions, not least who did it as nobody has been put behind bars.

"Another young man is dead, another mother is going to be suffering," she said.

"Lack of this, lack of that, but it's the same everywhere - there are lots of people everywhere that's got deprivation but they ain't doing it."

Bravado and loyalty

There are no easy answers but some clues are writ large in Moss Side - literally.

Jesse James
It is thought that Jessie was mistaken for a gang member

A terraced street only a couple of minutes walk from where Jessie was shot has graffiti in bold silver showing a sort of gangster figure. Next to the drawing is written: RIP To All the Fallen Soldiers Sadly Missed.

It speaks of bravado, loyalty and a perverse sense of heroic sacrifice. Nearby teenagers say that some may find that message appealing.

A black teenager chatting to her friends in the street said: "They look up to all these older ones in the big cars selling drugs - that's all it is really.

"Moss Side deserves a reputation actually because there's always gunshots, there's always murders, there's always violence."

Senior police express confidence about finding Jessie James's killer, but getting people to give evidence in court would be a major challenge.

A Home Office study of south Manchester revealed that in 150 separate shooting incidents over a three-year period, only one witness came forward to testify.

Police positive in shooting probe
11 Sep 06 |  Manchester
Extra police after teenager shot
10 Sep 06 |  Manchester
Boy 'executed' in city shooting
10 Sep 06 |  Manchester

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