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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March, 2005, 19:19 GMT
Four guilty of New Year shootings
Clockwise from top left; Rodrigo Simms, Marcus Ellis, Michael Gregory, Nathan Martin
The men were found guilty after a four-month trial
Four men have been found guilty of the murder of two teenage girls shot dead in Birmingham at New Year 2003.

Letisha Shakespeare, 17, and Charlene Ellis, 18, were shot outside a party in Aston on 2 January in a botched gang attack, the jury heard.

Charlene's half-brother Marcus Ellis, 24, Michael Gregory, 22, Nathan Martin, 26, and 20-year-old Rodrigo Simms had denied the murders.

The men will be sentenced at Leicester Crown Court on Monday.

A fifth defendant, Jermaine Carty, was cleared of possessing a firearm on the night of the shooting.

The guilty verdicts were all by majority, with the exception of Ellis, who was convicted unanimously.

Charlene was my other half and she was taken before she could live her life to the full
Sophie Ellis, Charlene's twin

The girls had gone to a party at a hair salon in Birchfield Road, Aston, on 2 January, 2003.

While they were outside with friends, the killers drove by and fired a sub-machine gun, hitting both girls several times.

Charlene's twin sister Sophie, their cousin Cheryl Shaw, and friend Leon Harris were injured.

The prosecution claimed the shootings were a bungled revenge attack by one rival gang on another.

Speaking outside Leicester Crown Court, Marcia Shakespeare, 38, mother of 17-year-old Letisha said: "Justice has been served. We are happy - it has been a long ordeal, it was the right result."

Charlene Ellis (left) and Letisha Shakespeare
The girls died outside a hairdresser's in January 2003

Bev Thomas, Charlene Ellis' mother, told a press conference: "There were people there that saw and became blind and heard and became deaf.

"Charlene will be sadly missed.

"Today for me can be tomorrow for you. Don't wait for it to reach your doorstep."

Ms Thomas stressed she was not related to Charlene's half-brother Marcus Ellis, and had never married Arthur Ellis, father of both.

Charlene and her killer knew they were related, but were not close.

There has been a grave miscarriage of justice following one of the most unfair trials of modern times
Defence solicitor
Errol Robinson

Det Supt Dave Mirfield, who led the investigation, said: "This isn't about winners or losers, this is about Letisha, Charlene, Sophia and Cheryl.

"We are all delighted at this result but we must never forget the girls, they are always in our memories.

"The family have shown great, great, dignity. I would like to praise them."

'Not untouchable'

He added that police would continue to bring as many gang members as possible before the courts.

"We have never seen them as untouchable, it's a wrong thing to say.

Marcia Shakespeare and Bev Thomas

"There are probably more gang members in prison serving sentences than are out, so that's how untouchable they are."

Ellis, Gregory, Martin and Simms were also convicted of three counts of attempting to murder Sophie Ellis and Cheryl Shaw.

Ellis, Gregory, Martin were additionally convicted of attempting to murder Leon Harris.

Simms was cleared of that charge.

The trial has been marred by serious and consistent attempts to intimidate key witnesses, according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Voices disguised

The CPS and the trial judge took unprecedented steps to ensure that witnesses felt able to give evidence.

A number of legal firsts were set in the way the trial was conducted.

Some witnesses were given pseudonyms, had their voices electronically disguised and were hidden from the defendants in the courtroom.

Their true identities were not revealed to the defence.

Barristers' concerns

The trial judge took advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Court of Appeal before proceeding with these arrangements.

A solicitor working for Ellis and Simms said his clients would appeal.

Errol Robinson said: "There has been a grave miscarriage of justice following one of the most unfair trials of modern times."

A solicitor for Gregory, said he anticipated that his client would appeal, while Martin's solicitor declined to comment.

Before and during the trial, the defendants' barristers continually expressed concerns that prosecution witnesses had been allowed to give evidence anonymously.




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CCTV footage shows victims on the night they died



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