Page last updated at 15:27 GMT, Thursday, 9 October 2008 16:27 UK

Shot Rhys 'was innocent victim'


Eighteen-year-old Sean Mercer denies killing Rhys Jones

Rhys Jones became an innocent victim of a violent gang feud when he was shot dead in a pub car park, a court heard.

CCTV footage of the moment the 11-year-old was shot was played to the jury as prosecutors outlined the case against Sean Mercer at Liverpool Crown Court.

The accused's Crocky Crew gang operated around the Fir Tree pub in Croxteth Park where Rhys was killed on 22 August 2007, said prosecutor Neil Flewitt QC.

Mr Mercer, 18, of Good Shepherd Close, Croxteth, denies murder.

Rhys was killed in the pub car park, a few hundred yards from his house, as he walked home from football training.

Mr Flewitt told the court that as Rhys walked across the car park, a hooded gunman on a bicycle came from behind the pub and fired three shots.

Rhys Jones
Rhys Jones was shot in the neck as he crossed a car park

A three-second clip played to the court showed the gunman stopping on his bike, firing, then riding off.

The footage showed Rhys crossing the car park and becoming distracted by the sound of the first bullet, which went through the windows of a BMW and struck a metal container nearby.

As he turned to look in the direction of the noise, he was struck by what the prosecution say was the second bullet fired by the gunman.

The images showed Rhys fall to the ground where he later died in his mother's arms.

The third bullet impacted on a stone wall - which on the CCTV footage threw up a puff of dust.

Rhys was rushed to Alder Hey Children's Hospital where he was examined.

But he had no pulse and attempts to resuscitate him failed.

'Innocent victim'

Home Office pathologist Dr Paul Johnson said Rhys was actually shot in the back, slightly above the left shoulder blade.

The bullet exited from the front right side of his neck.

Rhys was not Sean Mercer's intended victim, Mr Flewitt told the court, but it was the prosecution's case that he fired the fatal shot and was therefore guilty of murder.

Immediately after the shooting Sean Mercer set about distancing himself from the killing, Mr Flewitt told the jury.

He said: "He moved quickly to dispose of his clothing, his pedal cycle and the gun that he had used to such devastating effect."

Home video of Rhys Jones

Mr Flewitt said it was the prosecution case that Rhys was the "innocent victim of a long-running feud between rival gangs operating in and around the area of the Fir Tree public house".

The jury heard the shooting was a product of "fierce and frequently violent rivalry" between young gang members from Croxteth's Crocky Crew and nearby Norris Green's Strand Gang, also known as Nogga Dogs.

Mr Mercer and six others accused of assisting an offender were all members of the Crocky Crew, said Mr Flewitt.

Mr Flewitt said Mr Mercer was actually shooting at three members of the Strand Gang.

He told the court: "It is therefore the prosecution case that the murder of Rhys Jones was yet another, and even more tragic, example of the mindless and indiscriminate violence that is a feature of the rivalry between the Croxteth Crew and the Strand Gang."

Outlining the history of the violence, Mr Flewitt said there had been at least 70 incidents of criminal damage between the gangs with tit-for-tat shootings.

He said "the strength of the loyalty that existed among gang members and their associates explains the speed and enthusiasm" with which the six co-accused helped Sean Mercer avoid responsibility for the murder.

James Yates, 20, of Dodman Road, Croxteth; Gary Kays, 25, of Mallard Close, and Melvin Coy, 24, of Abbeyfield Drive, both West Derby, Liverpool, are accused of assisting an offender, along with two boys aged 16 and 17, who cannot be identified.

The sixth accused person, another 17-year-old boy, also denies possessing an illegal firearm and ammunition.

The trial continues.

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