BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 August 2007, 20:08 GMT 21:08 UK
The wall of silence broken down
Jessie James
Jessie was shot three times as he cycled through a Moss Side park
Jessie James was shot dead in a community that has had to get used to gun culture and the so-called wall of silence that comes with it.

Many people, including the police and Jessie's own family, believe the local community of Moss Side in Manchester have known whose hand was on that trigger since the day he died.

The climate of fear meant people may have known who shot Jessie, but they were scared to speak out for fear of retribution.

The 15-year-old was shot dead as he rode his bicycle through a park on his way to a party in September last year.

His killing sparked condemnation and outrage among large parts of the community, not shock.

Jessie was not believed to be involved in gangs but police have said it seems likely that his killers were.

Police have previously said they believe there are more than 500 gang members in Manchester.

Live in fear

Their activities centre around drugs and guns, and those who live alongside them live in fear.

Jessie's mother, Barbara, said: "People know who did it but won't say. I do think people might be too terrified to speak out.

"By not telling police you are allowing these evil individuals to carry on intimidating our youth and they will just move on to their next victim."

She added: "When I see people walking down the street or waiting in a queue at the supermarket, I constantly think - do you know something?"

Prof Gus John
If you know that someone has actually killed people in cold blood, it takes a lot of courage
Professor Gus John

Gus John, a professor of education at Strathclyde University, has worked with families in Moss Side and knows the gangs implicated in the case.

He said it takes a lot of courage for a witness to come forward.

"If you know that someone has actually killed people in cold blood, and is very ruthless, it takes a lot of courage and some people consider it to be reckless, to want to go and say to the police, I know that X did this, and I can point him out to you.

"It isn't very easy to do, even if the police say we will give you a safe house or change your identity or whatever, so it is quite likely that people have known for a very long time who the group of boys were who chased Jessie into the park, and who shot him."

Unusual step

At the inquest into Jessie's death, the coroner Nigel Meadows took the highly unusual step of allowing witnesses to give evidence anonymously via video link to Manchester Crown Court, with their voices disguised and their identities concealed.

With such technology available, it means that witnesses who give evidence do not have to move away with new identities.

Supt Shaun Donnellan of Greater Manchester Police said: "Protected witnesses during this inquest have been able to give evidence via video link, behind screens and with their voices distorted to such an extent that you cannot even tell if they are men or women, children or adults.

Murder scene in Broadfield Park
Police believe Jessie's killers were involved in gangs

"This means they can stay in their communities and not have to get new identities and move away.

Professor John said the conditions in the court may have encouraged someone to speak out.

"The individual concerned must have been reassured by the attitude of the coroner towards witnesses and the fact that they were able to give evidence anonymously."

It seems it may have worked, as in a surprise twist to the proceedings a witness at the inquest gave fresh information on Wednesday.

Detectives have described the new information as a "breakthrough" and revealed two people are expected to be arrested on suspicion of murder.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific