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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 November, 2004, 18:05 GMT
'Gang revenge' behind shootings
from left; Cheryl Shaw, Charlene Ellis, Sophie Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare
Charlene and Letitia were shot in error, the jury heard
Two teenage girls shot dead outside a party in Birmingham were the innocent victims of a gang feud, a murder trial jury has been told.

Student Charlene Ellis, 18, and Letisha Shakespeare, 17, were killed outside a hairdresser's in Aston in January 2003.

Timothy Raggatt, QC, prosecuting, said the pair were shot in error by a group of men intent on killing gang rivals.

Five men are each charged with two counts of murder and three of attempted murder - all deny the charges.

The five accused are Marcus Ellis, 23, from Winson Green, Michael Gregory, 22, from Ladywood, Nathan Martin, 25, and Rodrigo Simms, 19, both from Smethwick, and a 22-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

This was an episode that did not happen by chance or out of the blue
Timothy Raggatt, QC
A sixth man, 23-year-old Jermaine Carty, from Handsworth, is charged with two counts of possessing a firearm on the evening the girls were killed. He also denies the charges.

Charlene's twin sister Sophie, their cousin Cheryl Shaw and Leon Harris were all injured in the shooting outside a hairdresser's salon on Birchfield Road, in the early hours of 2 January 2003.

Mr Raggatt told the jury at Leicester Crown Court that the shots which killed the girls were fired from a passing Ford Mondeo, which contained Mr Martin, Mr Gregory, Mr Ellis and the defendant who cannot be named.

Mr Simms was outside the salon, but had been part of what was a "joint enterprise", Mr Raggatt said.

'Wider picture'

He told the jury that one of the weapons used in the attack was a Mac 10 submachine gun.

Mr Raggatt said: "This was an episode that did not happen by chance or out of the blue. This incident was a part of a wider picture.

"I suggest that... this was a piece of gang violence and what really happened was that there were members of one gang trying to kill people who they believed were associated or members of another rival street gang."

Mr Raggatt told the court that the "real targets" were a group of young men standing nearby, who included one of the accused men, Jermaine Carty.

'Collateral damage'

He said that Mr Carty was armed and fired back at the occupants of the car.

Mr Raggatt told the court the motive for the drive-by shooting was to avenge the murder of defendant Mr Martin's brother, Yohanne, who was shot dead in December 2002 in West Bromwich.

He said the men in the car were all gang members and were trying to shoot members of another gang called The Johnson Crew, who they held responsible for the murder of Yohanne Martin.

Mr Raggatt said the gun that killed the girls was fired without "the remotest regard for the lives of those who might be in the way of such a burst".

"The military call it collateral damage. In the streets of Birmingham - in the streets of any city in this country - we don't have collateral damage, we have murder and that is what lies at the heart of this trial."

The case was adjourned until Wednesday.

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