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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 September 2007, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
The murder plotted from behind bars
Julia Houston
BBC News

Liam Smith
Liam Smith was visiting a friend in prison when he was shot
When Liam Smith argued with a rival gang member inside the walls of a Liverpool prison, he probably assumed he was safe.

After all, the man with whom he shared the spat, Ryan Lloyd, spent most of his time cooped up in a cell at Altcourse jail.

But as 19-year-old Smith made his way out of the prison, where he had been visiting a friend when the argument flared, plans for his murder were already being plotted.

Lloyd - a member of the notorious Croxteth Crew - is reported to have demanded a contraband mobile from a mate with the words: "Quick, quick give me the phone. I'll get the boys up here to pop them."

Less than 40 minutes later, Smith, a member of the Strand Gang who lived in Cottesbrook Road, Norris Green, lay dying after being shot in the head outside the prison in August 2006.

The scene is about three miles from where 11-year-old Rhys Jones was killed in August, the innocent victim of a shooting probably linked to the gang warfare raging in the Croxteth area.

Ryan Lloyd
Ryan Lloyd was convicted of Liam Smith's murder

Indeed, the problem is so serious - spawning at least 17 separate shootings - police have set up a dedicated team of officers intent on bringing the gangsters to justice.

Ch Supt Andy Ward is area commander for Liverpool North, a patch which includes Croxteth and Norris Green.

"It [the gang violence] has had a significant effect. Clearly people have felt unsafe and unable to go out because of the large numbers of young people on the streets and of course the use of firearms in the area."

He says the problem is "young thugs involved in stealing cars, in burglaries, drugs and firearms and use of guns to settle disputes."

Firearms are used on a number of different occasions are they are being handed around
Ch Supt Andy Ward
Merseyside Police have set up Operation Cable to tackle the area's gang crime, and say they know who the main culprits are.

Mr Ward said: "They know who those individuals are and they've targeted those individuals.

"There have been over 2,000 stop checks, regular visits to licensed premises, Asbos and over 90 arrests just in relation to these particular individuals.

"It's not that we've got lots and lots of guns on the streets, it's that firearms are used on a number of different occasions and they are being handed around."

Mr Ward said people are scared by the gangsters, who intimidate people to make sure they are not caught out.

"They operate through fear, people don't want to say anything for fear that they will be targeted."

Altcourse prison
Liam Smith was shot outside Altcourse prison
Police have also spoken of how fear in the community is hampering their investigations in the Rhys Jones murder case.

Rhys had been on his way home after football practice on a field behind the Fir Tree Pub in Croxteth, when a teenager on a mountain bike fired three shots, one of which killed him.

An appeal on BBC One's Crimewatch on Wednesday resulted in 60 calls to police. Twelve of those callers named the same person as Rhys's killer, but so far no-one has come forward and given evidence against him.

Mr Ward has also spoken about how young people are drawn into gangs.

"There is a glamorous perception people seem to have but anyone who goes to the scene of a murder or a shooting quickly realises that this isn't - lying on a slab in a morgue isn't glamorous at all."

Lloyd, 19, of Silverwell Road, Thomas Forshaw, 18, of Middle Way, and a 16-year-old boy, all from Croxteth, were convicted of Smith's murder last month.

Liam Duffy, 26, of Polperro Close, Croxteth, was convicted of manslaughter.

All were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court on Thursday.

How the current law may be interpreted

Four jailed for gang war killing
27 Sep 07 |  Merseyside
Three teenagers guilty of murder
24 Aug 07 |  Merseyside
Funeral for murdered jail visitor
25 Sep 06 |  Merseyside
Two released over jail gun death
26 Aug 06 |  Merseyside
Teenager shot dead outside jail
24 Aug 06 |  Merseyside

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