Page last updated at 18:32 GMT, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 19:32 UK

Twelve arrested over Rhys murder

Rhys Jones

Twelve people have been arrested in connection with the murder of Liverpool schoolboy Rhys Jones.

They were held by Merseyside Police in a series of dawn raids in the Croxteth area of the city.

Two youths, aged 16 and 17, and two men, aged 24 and 25, were being held on suspicion of murdering the 11-year-old schoolboy in August 2007.

Three youths, two men and three women were being held for alleged offences including assisting an offender.

Rhys was shot in the neck as he walked home from football practice in Croxteth Park, Liverpool, on 22 August.

Merseyside police raided a number of homes early on Tuesday.

BBC map showing area where Rhys Jones was shot

A 16-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender, attempting to pervert the course of justice and possession of a firearm and ammunition.

A 49-year-old man and a 15-year-old boy have been arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

A youth, 17, is also being held on suspicion of assisting an offender.

The three women, aged 50, 54 and 21, and a 22-year-old man, have been arrested on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Following the arrests, Bernard Hogan-Howe, Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, paid tribute to Rhys's parents Stephen, 45, and Melanie, 42, for their support and patience.

He said: "The public and Rhys's parents have been very supportive throughout and we are grateful for their ongoing confidence in the investigation."

Everton FC chaplain Rev Harry Ross also praised the youngster's parents for their strength and support.

'Loving family'

"Rhys has been a part of a very wonderful and loving family," he said.

"They have been beacons in a very dark period for everybody and when you are with them it's like being in a cocoon of love and care. I think they have really been wonderful."

Rhys held an Everton season ticket.

Before today, a further 20 people had been arrested over the killing outside the Fir Tree pub eight months ago, including 17 on suspicion of murder.

Fir Tree pub, Croxteth
Rhys Jones was shot in the car park of a local pub

No one has been charged, but some of those arrested are now being treated as witnesses.

In the weeks following the shooting, amid reports detectives faced a "wall of silence" in the local community, assistant chief constable of Merseyside Police, Patricia Gallan, said people should not be afraid to come forward.

"We can put in special measures if you're frightened about your identity becoming revealed, there are things that we can do that will assist and protect your identity," she said.

In February, Merseyside police said they believed they had found the gun used to shoot the schoolboy.

Several appeals have been made for information, including two on BBC One's Crimewatch programme.

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