Warning for innocent people ‘caught in the crossfire’ days before Christmas shooting

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A chilling warning about innocent people being “caught in the crossfire” of warring gangs was issued by a senior police officer less than a fortnight before 26-year-old Elle Edwards was shot dad on Christmas Eve. Ms Edwards was killed when a bullet struck in the head after a gunman opened fire in the Lighthouse pub, in Wallasey Village, Merseyside.

Four other men were also wounded in the attack – and Wirral local community policing inspector Alan McKeon had earlier warned of the potential of such a horrific incident, the Liverpool Echo reported.

The police officer referred to the tragic deaths of Olivia Pratt-Korbel, nine, who was killed in August, and Rhys Jones, 11, who was shot in 2007, as earlier instances of innocent youngsters being murdered as a result of gang violence.

Mr McKeon said on December 16: “If you have these factional disputes ongoing, and people using firearms in anger towards each other, we’ve seen in the last 12 months, with Olivia Pratt-Korbel being the obvious example, and even Rhys Jones prior to that and plenty of others in between, there are just absolutely innocent people who get caught in the crossfire of these people.”

According to detectives, beautician Ms Edwards was not the intended target of the gunman, and it is currently suspected she was caught in the crossfire of the attempted killing of another individual.

On Boxing Day, Merseyside Police announced the arrests of a 30-year-old man on suspicion of murder and a 19-year-old woman on suspicion of conspiracy to murder – both of whom remain in custody. Police are undertaking an ongoing operation targeting an organised crime group (OCG), based in the local Woodchurch estate

Dubbed the Woodchurch OCG, police believe that together with the Ford OCG – based in the Beechwood estate – are linked to a series of recent shootings which have left young men suffering from serious, but non-fatal, injuries.

Mr McKeon added to the ECHO that while the firearms discharges seen on the Woodchurch estate are “very much targeted”, he was “sure” that “each and every firearms discharge we deal with starts out as intended to be targeted.”

He said that police “can’t mitigate” for those who are “caught in the crossfire between warring factions.”

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The senior officer added: “So for me, the reason why targeting organised criminality on the Woodchurch was a priority is; I certainly don’t want anything like that to happen to anyone here.”

Ms Edwards’ death is the fifth fatal shooting in Merseyside since August 16, when 22-year-old Sam Rimmer was killed in Lavrock Bank, Dingle. Shortly afterwards, nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel in Dovecot and 28-year-old Ashley Dale in Old Swan were shot in their own homes by gunmen who, it is suspected, were targeting other people.

Merseyside Polive have not confirmed whether Ms Edwards’ murder is being treated as related to local OCGs.

However, procedures aimed at disrupting their activities have been taking placed over the last two days.

For instance, on Boxing Day the force announced it had carried out stop and search operations and open land searches in Wallasey, Woodchurch and Birkenhead in “direct response” to Elle’s murder.

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Speaking after Elle’s death, Detective Superintendent Sue Coombs urged members of the public to come forward with any information.

She said: “No family should have to be faced with this ordeal at any time but at Christmas, which should be a time of peace and celebration, it makes it so much harder to bear. Our specially trained family liaison officers are supporting the family at this tragic time and we are determined to find those responsible. The investigation is still in the early stages and we are trying to establish a motive and the circumstances surrounding this callous and cold blooded shooting.

“We believe the gunman fired shots at the front entrance to the pub. Minutes later a dark coloured car, possibly an A-Class Mercedes, was seen to leave the pub car park. We are particularly keen to speak to the driver of that car and ask anyone who may have seen it to contact us immediately.

“We will not rest until we find the people responsible for this shooting and I would appeal to anyone who has information or believes they captured something significant on their dashcam, doorbell camera or mobile phone to contact us.

“Our investigation will rely heavily on information we receive from the public and I urge members of the local community, who have any information which could help us, to get in touch so we can bring those responsible for the horrific murder of a young woman at Christmas to justice.”