Page last updated at 14:16 GMT, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Rhys was 'tragic victim of gangs'

Rhys Jones
Rhys Jones died after he was shot in the pub car park

Schoolboy Rhys Jones became the "youngest and most tragic" victim of two rival gangs when he was shot dead in Liverpool, a jury has heard.

The 11-year-old was killed in the car park of the Fir Tree Public House in Croxteth Park on 22 August 2007.

Neil Flewitt QC, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court Rhys died because of alleged gunman Sean Mercer's "intense hatred" of rival gang members.

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

He has also denied being a member of the Croxteth Crew gang.

The prosecution claim he fired three shots across the pub's car park after targeting members of the rival Strand Gang who had strayed onto his "turf".

These men do not carry firearms just to show off - they carry them to kill or cause serious injury to their opponents
Neil Flewitt QC, prosecuting

The second bullet, the jury has been told, struck Rhys in the neck and the youngster died in his mother's arms a short time later.

Mr Flewitt said: "Rhys Jones died because of Sean Mercer's hatred for members of the Strand Gang.

"Sean Mercer's hatred was so intense he was willing to take the risk of firing shots across the car park of the Fir Tree public house, in full view of the many customers who had gone there for a quiet drink or to watch the England versus Germany football match that was taking place that night.

"The fact that he remained at liberty for so long is a consequence of the willingness of certain residents of Croxteth to cover up even the most appalling of crimes."

'Intended to kill'

Mr Flewitt outlined a long history of gun-related and violent incidents involving the Croxteth Crew and Strand Gang.

He suggested the jury might consider a manslaughter verdict if they were unsure if Mr Mercer had intended to kill or cause really serious harm, but then added: "This was certainly not the case.

Fir Tree pub in Croxteth Park
Rhys was shot outside The Fir Tree pub in Croxteth

"He intended to kill or cause serious injury to someone. It does not matter that Rhys Jones was not the intended victim.

"These men do not carry firearms just to show off - they carry them to kill or cause serious injury to their opponents."

Also on trial accused of assisting an offender are James Yates, 20, of Dodman Road and Nathan Quinn, 18, of Wickett Close, both Croxteth; Gary Kays, 25, of Mallard Close and Melvin Coy, 24, of Abbeyfield Drive, both West Derby, Liverpool, along with Boy M, 16, and Boy K, 17, who cannot be named.

Boy K is also charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition, which he also denies.

Listing the co-accused one-by-one, Mr Flewitt added: "(They) were willing to assist Sean Mercer dispose of much of the evidence - the weapon, his clothing and his bicycle, and that is an indication of the loyalty of those who are members of or associated with the Croxteth Crew."

Mr Flewitt asked the jury to consider whether the decision by five of the defendants, including Mr Mercer, not to give evidence supported their guilt.

"You have to decide if their silence supports the prosecution case or if there is some good, yet unidentified, reason for their refusal to give evidence," he said.

The case continues.

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