Ashley Dale: Four guilty of murder after row at Glastonbury

Four men have been found guilty of murdering a woman who was shot when a gunman opened fire in her home after a feud involving her boyfriend.

Ashley Dale, 28, was killed when James Witham fired a Skorpion sub-machine gun in her house in Liverpool in the early hours of 21 August 2022.

Witham, 41, Joseph Peers, 29, Niall Barry, 26, and Sean Zeisz, 28, were convicted at Liverpool Crown Court.

Ian Fitzgibbon, 28, was cleared of Ms Dale's murder.

The trial heard Ms Dale's partner had been the intended target of the shooting due to a feud with Barry, which had reignited at Glastonbury festival.

Ms Dale, an environmental health officer, was killed when Witham, who admitted manslaughter but denied murder, forced open the door of her home in the Old Swan area of the city.

He fired 10 bullets in her dining room, one hitting Ms Dale in the abdomen as she stood by the back door, and five bullets into the wall of an upstairs bedroom.

Peers was described in court as a "foot soldier" after he drove a Hyundai to the scene and earlier helped Witham to stab tyres on Ms Dale's car in an attempt to lure the couple out of the house.

Barry and Zeisz were found to have helped organise and encourage the killing, which came after a feud with Ms Dale's boyfriend Lee Harrison.

James Witham and Joseph Peers
James Witham, left, who fired the sub-machine gun and Joseph Peers, right, were found guilty of murder

The trial heard Ms Dale's own voice describing the falling out between her partner and Barry, as voice notes which she recorded and sent to friends in the two months before her murder were played to the jury.

Her phone was found an arm's length from her and the court heard she had tried to call Mr Harrison, who was out with friends, in her final moments.

The jury was told Barry's feud with Mr Harrison started about three years before the shooting when Mr Harrison sided with the Hillside organised crime group after they allegedly stole drugs from Barry.

The feud was reignited when both attended Glastonbury festival in June 2022, the prosecution said.

Mr Fitzgibbon, who flew to Dubai after the shooting and was extradited from Spain in August, told the jury he had witnessed Barry threatening to stab Mr Harrison during the festival.

Niall Barry and Sean Zeisz
Niall Barry, left, and Sean Zeisz, right, were also convicted of murder

Ms Dale's family said the 28-year-old had fallen "in love with the wrong boy" as they expressed their anger towards the "despicable" boyfriend her murderers were targeting.

Julie Dale, 46, said she was "very, very angry" towards Mr Harrison, who had been in a relationship with her daughter for about five years before her death.

"Some days I feel like I'm more angry towards him than I am to the person who's actually killed Ashley because without Lee Harrison this wouldn't have happened," she said.

She added: "The way he's acted since this has happened has been absolutely despicable.

"We've had no remorse from him. We've had no support from him. We have no admittance that it's anything to do with him."

During the trial, the court heard that since his girlfriend's death Mr Harrison had been "totally unco-operative" with police, and had been to Dubai on several occasions.

Ms Dale's stepfather Rob Jones said: "The problem we keep coming back to is Ashley fell in love with the wrong boy.

"I'm not saying for one minute Ashley did not love him, I'm saying he doesn't love her, clearly, by actions."

Her mother added: "The difficult thing is, most of the defendants, pretty much all of them, knew Ashley and have known her on a friendly basis.

"Never mind to do what they did, but then to get up and lie about it and talk about her.

"Hearing them mention her name just makes me so angry."

As the verdicts were read out, Ms Dale's mother and stepfather were hugged by relatives sitting behind them and they stood and embraced each other in tears once the proceedings had ended.

Family members of the convicted men were also in tears, with some relatives running out of the court room causing the judge to pause proceedings.

Witham, Peers, Barry and Zeisz were also convicted of conspiracy to murder Mr Harrison and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon, a Skorpion sub-machine gun, and ammunition.

Fitzgibbon, of St Helens, was cleared of those charges.

Kallum Radford, 26, was acquitted of assisting an offender after being accused of helping to store the car used in the murder.

Sentencing for the four convicted men will take place on Wednesday at 11:00 GMT.

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