Page last updated at 12:46 GMT, Thursday, 19 June 2008 13:46 UK

New Year gun killers may appeal

Charlene Ellis (l) and Letisha Shakespeare
Charlene Ellis (l) and Letisha Shakespeare were shot in Aston

The four men convicted of murdering two teenage girls outside a New Year party may go to the Court of Appeal following a ruling over anonymous witnesses.

The men were convicted over the shooting of Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare in Birmingham in 2003.

On Tuesday, the Law Lords ruled a killer convicted through anonymous evidence did not receive a fair trial.

An anonymous witness was used for the first time in the trial of Charlene and Letisha's killers, in 2005.

'Urgent matter'

Solicitor Errol Robinson, acting on behalf of two of the killers, Marcus Ellis and Rodrigo Simms, said the case would be referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission "as a matter of urgency".

The board will then decide if the case can go to the Court of Appeal.

At the end of their trial in March 2005, Mr Justice Goldring recommended minimum terms of 35 years in the case of Ellis, and those of the other killers Michael Gregory and Nathan Martin.

He also said Simms should serve at least 27 years in jail before he can be considered for parole.

THE CONVICTED MEN AND AGES AT TIME OF CONVICTION
Marcus Ellis, 24, of Devonshire Avenue, Winson Green, Birmingham
Michael Gregory, 23, of Ryland Street, Ladywood, Birmingham
Nathan Martin, 26, of South Road, Smethwick
Rodrigo Simms, 20, of Whitehouse Drive, Smethwick

Defence lawyers have since unsuccessfully argued the trial was unfair because, for the first time, a prosecution witness was allowed to give evidence anonymously.

Mr Robinson said that before the Law Lords' ruling on Tuesday, solicitors had been considering going to the European Court of Human Rights over the matter.

He said: "[Tuesday's] judgement leaves us in a position where we can make an application for the case to go back to the Court of Appeal.

"There is no reason why that should not occur and we are hopeful there would be a more just outcome."

'Every confidence'

Charlene, 18, and Letisha, 17, were killed when a sub-machine gun was fired from a car outside the Uniseven hair salon in Aston, Birmingham, on 2 January 2003.

The trial jury heard from witnesses other than the anonymous ones and also were given details of a mobile phone which appeared to link the four men to the purchase of a car from which shots were fired.

It also appeared to place them close to the scene at the time.

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The men were convicted over the shooting of two people in Birmingham in 2003

The gun used in the shootings has not been traced.

Det Ch Supt Dave Mirfield, who led the investigation into the shooting, said he had "every confidence" that using anonymous witnesses was the right thing to do in that case.

He said using such special measures was a "vital tool" in securing convictions.

He said: "With the investigation into the shooting of Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare, the police and the CPS took great care to protect those who needed it to give evidence.

"This included anonymity as witnesses were in fear for their lives."

He added: "I have every confidence in the processes which have been put in place by West Midlands Police to support these vital witnesses and to continue to bring those who commit murder to justice."




SEE ALSO
Aston shooting four denied appeal
08 Jun 06 |  West Midlands

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